Explosive bus crash kills 43 in French countryside

Dozens of retirees and a young boy were killed in the crash, France's worst road accident in more than 30 years.

A firefighter (l.) comforts a woman near the site of a crash between a bus and truck in which at least 43 people were killed, in Puisseguin, near Bordeaux, southwestern France, Friday. A truck and a bus transporting retirees on a day trip collided and caught fire Friday in wine country in southwest France, killing 43 people and badly injuring four others, authorities said. It was the nation's deadliest road accident in more than 30 years.

[Editor's note: Story updated at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time.]

At least 43 people, including a young boy, died when a bus filled with retirees collided with a truck in southwest France on Friday in the country’s worst road accident in more than three decades.

The accident occurred on a narrow, winding road near the village of Puisseguin, about 30 miles east of Bordeaux in wine country. Eight people, including the driver, managed to escape from the bus as it caught fire. Four of them were badly injured, according to authorities.

French media reported that the truck driver and his 3-year-old son who was traveling with him were also killed.

Puisseguin Mayor Xavier Sublett said the truck driver lost control of the vehicle and that “the bus driver tried to avoid it, but the truck came and hit it.” Other authorities remained cautious about what caused the crash. An investigation is underway.

Both vehicles caught fire immediately – which authorities said likely contributed to the unusually high death toll – as emergency workers rushed to the scene. Images on French television showed the bus’s collapsing, charred frame engulfed by smoke.

Concerns quickly surfaced about the safety of the road, especially near the curve. Legislator Noel Mamere, a representative from the region where the accident occurred, said the collision happened on an "extremely dangerous curve that is considered very accident-prone."

The bus was carrying about 50 retirees from their homes in the village of Petit Palais and surrounding hamlets on a one-day ham-tasting trip in Arzacq-Arraziguet, about 120 miles away. The collision occurred just a few minutes, about four miles, into their trip.

French President François Hollande, who was in Athens at the time of the accident, said he had been "plunged into sadness" by the tragedy. Prime Minister Manuel Valls called it a “terrible shock” for the country. He and other ministers were heading to the crash site on Friday.

The last deadliest road accident in France occurred in 1982, when 53 people, mostly children, died in a bus crash in Burgundy, according to an independent road safety organization.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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