By Marzia De Giuli
Italy expressed shock and grief on Tuesday over the deaths of seven Italian girls in Sunday’s bus crash in the Spanish region of Catalonia.
“Yes, I fell asleep” was Tuesday’s title of Italy’s newspaper Corriere della Sera with the largest circulation, which cited the words that the 63-year-old driver reportedly told emergency rescue workers at the crash site.
The bus was taking 57 Erasmus students back to Barcelona when the crash happened. It collided with a car and overturned.
The Corriere della Sera front page featured the smiling pictures of the young victims aged between 22 and 25, and their happy words posted on social networks before the accident.
“My daughter was rushed to hospital in serious condition. She keeps asking about her friends, she does not know yet that she has lost all of them,” the mother of Annalisa Riba, one of the few Italian students who survived the crash, told the newspaper.
“Erasmus, the grief of Europe,” was the title of another daily, la Repubblica.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi flew to Barcelona on Monday to convey his country’s condolences to the victims’ parents. Some of them had driven all night to reach Barcelona and identify their daughters’ bodies because they could not find a flight, according to ANSA news agency.
“Today it is a difficult day to down the throat … It would be spring. But how can you speak of spring with the pictures of seven girls who smile at you but actually have closed their eyes forever?,” Renzi said in his words posted on a social network.
“We know that every day innocent people die on the road. And our commitment to safety did not end with the approval of the vehicular homicide law, but must and will continue, day after day,” the prime minister highlighted.
Earlier this month, the Italian parliament passed a law on vehicular homicide which sets prison terms of two to seven years for drivers who wrongfully kill one person, and up to 18 years if there are multiple victims. Licenses can be confiscated for a term ranging from five to 30 years.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella also sent condolences to the families of the victims. He called the accident “extremely serious and absurd.” The death of so many young university students made it a “very sad day for Italy and for Europe,” Mattarella said.
Local experts highlighted that under 2006 European Union (EU) regulations, professional drivers must not get behind the wheel more than nine consecutive hours and must rest for at least 11 consecutive hours within a 24-hour period.
A recent survey conducted by ANAV, the national association of road passengers in Italy, has found that among over 23,000 bus carrying tourists and especially students in Italy, around 7,500 are at risk because they are very old.
Every year some three million students aged 11-18 go on a school trip in Italy.
“Why do schools continue to do bids to send their children on outings at super cheap prices?,” ANAV head Nicola Biscotti observed. ” for passenger transport,the quality of service must be central,” he highlighted.
“We hardly recognized our daughter, she used to be a beautiful girl … we identified her as our daughter, but she was very different from how we remembered her,” Alessandro Saracino, the father of one of the victims, Serena, told la Repubblica.
“What I am asking now is that such things never happen again. Young people, who are our hope and our future, must travel safely, with means on vehicles in good conditions and not in the early morning with perhaps tired drivers,” Saracino said. Enditem