It was to be a happy and lively excursion to Funchal, the capital of the picturesque flower island of Madeira. For the tourists a typical Madeiran dinner with culinary specialties of the region waited in a local restaurant. From the quaint hotel Quinta Splendida in the village of Caniço, the group set out in the early evening by coach to a restaurant a few miles away. But only a short time later, the ride ended in a tragedy: In a sloping left-hander, the bus suddenly came off the road, broke through a railing, overturned and fell about eight meters in depth.
The terrible result: 29 people – most of them according to previous findings from Germany – lose their lives shortly before Easter. Almost as many are injured, some very heavy. The tourists had booked the trip with a German tour operator, but it was not a fixed group, but tourists from all over Germany, said a member of staff of the hotel.
29 people are killed on Madeira
Madeira is still calm these days. It is preseason, the tourist streams are still out. But it is already green and blooming in every corner – it is not for nothing that botany fans are particularly enthusiastic about the colorful island. Because of the subtropical climate, there are pleasant temperatures throughout the year that allow cold-stricken Germans to march towards the mild hiking paradise. In addition to the Algarve, Madeira is Portugal's most popular tourist destination.
Two days before Good Friday, however, there is rain on Madeira, a lot of wind and temperatures below 20 degrees. On this typical April day fates strike for more than five dozen tourists. After the catastrophe, your bus comes to a standstill on the side just as it bounces on the red tiled roof of a residential building, which fortunately is uninhabited at the time. 28 people die immediately, 28 others are injured. A woman succumbs to her injuries shortly afterwards. The driver and the tour guide – both from Portugal – survive, but they also need to be treated in the hospital.
“You can not do anything, you can only cry”
Eyewitnesses of the accident stand for several minutes as if stunned over the embankment. There had been a “deafening silence”, “a cry of silence, as in a state of shock,” said Rita Castro, who had watched the action close up, on Portuguese television. The driver had previously tried by all means to prevent the accident nor to bring the coach to a halt, but he did not succeed.
Another eyewitness told the German press agency that the bus had been “relatively slow” on the road, then there was a loud bang. “Within ten minutes there were ambulances on site,” says the woman, adding with deep concern, “You can not do anything, you can only cry.”
Bus faster and faster after a few seconds
The fact that the bus was “relatively slow” drove, could inmates who have survived the accident, but not confirmed. “The bus started from the Quinta Splendida, after a few seconds it got faster and faster, banging against the wall, we immediately thought it was out of control, it got faster and faster, and then it rolled over,” a German said Man according to a report of the online newspaper “Observador”. He had broken a rib in the accident.
Speculation, a failure of the brakes led to the accident, the man supported: “I can imagine no other cause.” His wife, who was slightly injured on the neck, said safety tips from the plane had helped her get off lightly. “On the plane, they told us what to do, we huddled together like the babies and that was our luck,” she said. However, the Portuguese TV station TVI also reported horrible observations during the disaster: “People flew in through the windows.”
German-speaking parish helps
With dozens of emergency vehicles, the rescue teams move on. The site of the accident is being closed off on a large scale. Injured people are rescued and brought to safety, the dead are covered with cloths. “It was immediately searched for people on the island who speak German. Although the doctors and nurses are touching and caring for the injured, but it is always important to hear the native language and to get a few words of attention,” said Ilse Everlien Berardo, pastor of the German-speaking Evangelical Church on Madeira, in the RTL program “Good morning Germany” on Thursday.
“An injured lady said I think I've lost my life partner and she's in shock, of course,” said Berardo, who was full of praise for the response team's sensitivity.
Identification of the victims continues
Caniço the day after. Policemen secure tracks at the scene of the accident. They collect and look for passports of passengers. Because it is still unclear whether all victims are Germans. Other security forces turn shards together or try to re-erect an entrained power line. People are standing nearby, many have tears in their eyes.
The bad luck bus is no longer visible, it has already been recovered. The collapsed roof of the hit residential building remains. On a wall under the gaping hole a cross can be seen. The resident was with relatives at the time of the accident – a stroke of luck for the man, the only one who has survived the tragedy unscathed.