Austria crash survivor tells of horror

Shocked survivors of the tour bus crash in Austria which claimed five lives are returning home to the UK today.

Shocked survivors of the tour bus crash in Austria which claimed five lives are returning home to the UK today.

The bus, carrying 42 Britons, plunged nearly 100ft down a steep embankment, spun over twice and landed upside down in a field.

Dozens of people were also injured in the accident which happened when the coach got into difficulty as it tried to overtake another vehicle and then left the road, according to unconfirmed reports.

UK tour operator Inghams, which organised the trip, said would arrange for relatives to travel to Austria from the UK and help survivors return home this morning.

Meanwhile, one of the British holidaymakers caught up in the tragedy has given a horrific account of the crash.

Survivor Peter Davies escaped with minor cuts and bruises. He was on holiday with his girlfriend who suffered a broken leg and jaw.

The 27-year-old Shropshire mill operator told the Daily Mail: “I was talking when I heard a screech and a bang. Then we slid off the road and the ground was flying towards us. It was all a blur and going round and round.

“When it came to a halt the roof was right near the floor. I managed to crawl out of a gap where the windows should have been.

“People had been thrown out through the windows. It was horrible. I tried to help where I could but there wasn’t much we could do. There were people trapped but we couldn’t pull them out.”

Claudia Richl was first on the scene, according to the Daily Mirror.

She told the newspaper: “All I could hear were people crying.

“It was awful. I went to see if I could help, but there was nothing I could do.

“I couldn’t understand what people were saying and could only hold their hands and wait for rescuers to arrive.”

Emergency services rushed to the scene near the town of Halleinand following the accident at about around 4.30pm yesterday. One air ambulance pilot described the aftermath as “like a war zone”.

Doctors and medics treated victims at the scene as other rescue workers cut trapped passengers out of the wreckage. All of those on board the coach were freed within about an hour of the accident.

A rescue official in Austria said it was not possible to confirm who was injured because most of them were unconscious.

The most seriously hurt were being treated in Salzburg’s two main hospitals, the Landeskrankenhaus and the Unfallkrankenhaus.

Others had been taken to smaller units in the city or in Hallein.

A doctor who treated several of the injured at one of the local hospitals said there were people of all ages involved.

Dr Nicholas Mates told Sky News 17 British people were being treated at his hospital, including two children.

He said: “Most of injured were searching for relatives, their main concern was to find them.”

Aboard the coach were 46 tourists – 42 Britons, two Russians, one Australian and one German, according to local rescue officials.

One said: “We know that there are more people seriously injured.”

The passengers were on an excursion organised by UK tour operator Inghams, which has set up an emergency hotline for those who fear relatives may be involved.

In a statement issued yesterday, the company said passengers had been staying in the lake resorts of St Wolfgang, Traunkirchen, and Fuschl. They had been on an excursion to Berchtesgaden.

The firm said 20 people had been taken to three hospitals in the area and around 20 had already been released from hospital and returned to their hotels.

A senior management team was at the scene and would be joined by more staff from the company today.

The company said: “At the moment, our thoughts are with those who have been involved in the accident and their relatives.

“Naturally, the names of any injured parties will not be released until all next of kin have been notified.”

The British Foreign Office said consular staff in Austria were trying to find out about Britons involved the crash.

The coach belonged to a company called Christof Reisen based in the holiday resort of St Wolfgang, which offers excursions to tourists staying in the picturesque lakeside village.

The Foreign Office set up an emergency number for members of the public who fear they may have relatives involved in the crash. It is 020 7008 0000.

The Inghams hotline is 020 8780 6600.

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