I'm so sorry, says minibus driver blamed for Austria crash

The minibus driver facing charges over the Austrian crash which killed five British people and injured dozens more has told of his sorrow and regret.

The minibus driver facing charges over the Austrian crash which killed five British people and injured dozens more has told of his sorrow and regret.

The 70-year-old driver allegedly overtook the tour bus on a blind corner on a mountain road causing the coach to somersault down an embankment.

The driver faces charges of causing death by negligence, Austrian authorities announced yesterday.

Today, The Times named him as Johan Prettenthaler, a retired lorry driver who had been driving back to Saltzburg from Berchtesgaden in Germany with eight passengers when the accident happened.

He told the newspaper: “I am so sorry and I deeply regret what has happened. I would do anything to turn the clock back, to be given the chance to change the course of events.

“Nothing I could say could properly express my shame and I am frightened about how I am being judged in the eyes of the survivors.

“I keep turning the events around in my head and thinking about how things could have turned out differently.”

The driver of the coach, 39-year-old Martin Faulhaber, claimed the minibus knocked his vehicle a fraction off course.

While revisiting the scene of the crash to light a candle, he said: “The minibus overtook me but there was a car coming towards us.

“I kept on driving but the wheel of the minibus was jammed into mine. I held on to the steering wheel with two hands but I could not move it.”

A ceremony will be held today in Hallein, the nearest town to the site of the crash, which relatives of the victims and the walking wounded are expected to attend.

The service will start at 2pm and both Catholic and Protestant clergymen will be there, according to the town authorities.

There were 42 British tourists in the tour bus when it plunged off the mountain road and tumbled 60 metres down a slope 25 km from Salzburg on Tuesday.

A police report into the crash will be passed to the public prosecutor’s office.

The public prosecutor will then decide whether the charge – or a more serious charge – will be brought against the driver.

This is a normal legal procedure in Austria, where charges are not made directly by the police.

A total of 49 people were on board the bus – 42 Britons, three Germans, two Russians, an Australian tour guide and an Austrian driver – when disaster struck.

The tourist group was returning from a visit to a salt mine at Berchtesgaden, where Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had his alpine retreat, when tragedy struck.

Police said the minibus overtook the bus on a blind corner and then shunted it off the road as the driver tried to avoid an oncoming car.

While a total of 17 passengers were recovering in hospitals yesterday, other survivors joined local people for a candlelit memorial service in the small town church in nearby Fuschl on Wednesday night.

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