An electrical bus has crashed and caught fire in Italy killing 21 people. In an incident described as “apocalyptic” by officials, the bus veered off a bridge near the iconic city of Venice while en route to a camping facility nearby. Most of the dead were tourists, including visitors from Ukraine, Germany, South Africa, Romania, Portugal, and Croatia. Italian driver Alberto Rizzotto was among the dead.
Witness Godstime Erheneden told reporters he saw the accident from his apartment and rushed to help. He described pulling a 2-year-old girl from the debris but was unsure what became of her or her mother as both were whisked away by waiting paramedics.
Local official Luca Zaia said the precise cause of the incident is unknown, but “everything pointed” to the driver becoming ill and losing control of the vehicle as it crossed the bridge connecting Venice’s famous Piazzale Roma with a suburban area called Marghera. It is known that the bus was less than one year old and witnesses said flames arising from the crash site were enormous. Zaia said, “This is an important tragedy, but it’s difficult to understand how it happened. The bus was new and electric, and that street wasn’t particularly problematic.”’
Italian fire services said they were considering whether the vehicle’s battery may have been the culprit and caused the fire to spread rapidly. Local fire brigade commander Mauro Lungo said such batteries could experience “critical issues” when overheated and added that the size of the flames and concerns about the battery hampered rescue efforts.
It is unknown if other vehicles were involved and local prosecutor Bruno Cherchi will lead an investigation.
The vehicle was carrying 39 people and young children were among those killed. Prime Minister Georgia Meloni declared days of national mourning and said her government’s thoughts and prayers were with the dead and injured. President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said he was “deeply saddened” by the tragedy.