7 kids die as train slams into French school bus

Image: Site of a coach crash at a railway crossing in France
Police secure the scene after a deadly collision between a train and a bus Monday near Allinges in France.Denis Balibouse / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

A train slammed into a bus carrying schoolchildren at a railroad crossing in the French Alps on Monday, killing seven children and injuring 24 people, regional officials said.

The bus was carrying 50 middle-school students, five adults and a driver on a field trip to a historic village on the shores of Lake Geneva, according to the gendarmes service in the Haute-Savoie region. The collision ripped off part of the bus' rear and caused its roof to cave in.

The seven dead were all children on the bus, according to the regional administration. Three of the injured bus passengers were in serious condition. Several passengers on the train, on a route between Evian in France and Geneva, Switzerland, also had light injuries. Authorities had originally said 30 people were injured.

The accident occurred near the town of Allinges, near the Swiss border. The SNCF train authority said it appeared the train crossing was functioning normally at the time of the accident, and that investigations were under way to find out the cause of the accident.

The drivers of both the bus and train were in shock, gendarmes said.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, junior minister for transport Dominique Bussereau, and the head of the SNCF, Guillaume Pepy, visited the site. French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute to the victims during a speech on education in the presidential palace Monday.

"All we can do, unfortunately, is hope that there will be as few victims as possible," Sarkozy said. The president's office said he planned to visit the crash site Tuesday.

The interior minister said an administrative inquiry would be opened parallel to the judicial investigation.

The crash was one of the deadliest accidents in years at a French train crossing. In 1997, a crash between a regional train and a truck in southwest France killed 13 people and injured 42. In 2003, a collision between a car and a regional train in northern France killed five people.