Portugal’s Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened an inquiry into the horrific bus accident that claimed the lives of 29 German tourists and injured another 27 – including two Portuguese – in Madeira yesterday afternoon.
Sociedade de Automóveis da Madeira (SAM) – the company that owned the bus – has also said it is committed to finding out what happened and is willing to work and collaborate with authorities.
Initial reports suggest that the passengers were travelling in a tourist bus along a road in the area of Caniço, when the vehicle skidded and fell down the side of a hill crashing on top of a house at around 6.30pm.
But why the driver lost control of the vehicle is still unknown.
The vice-president of Madeira’s regional government, Pedro Calado, has said it is too soon to speculate about the cause and that the bus was only “five years old” and “apparently everything was fine”. He added that all buses in Madeira undergo inspections.
The fatal victims – 11 men, 18 women – were all German and mainly aged between 40 and 50. No children are among the victims. The bus, which had been chartered by Travel One, was reportedly carrying 55 passengers, including the bus driver and tour guide who are Portuguese.
The group of tourists was travelling from Santa Cruz to Funchal and was staying in the local Quinta Splendida hotel unit.
A team of specialists from mainland Portugal’s Institute of Legal Medicine are due to travel to Madeira to help identify the bodies.
Prime Minister António Costa has already lamented the tragedy and sent his condolences to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Meantime, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted: “We feel great pain for all those who lost their lives in the bus accident, our thoughts are with the injured.”
The horrific accident has brought up memories of another tragedy that shocked the Madeira in 2005, when five Italians were killed in a similar bus crash.