Police Suspect Driver Drowsiness or Distraction Caused Spain Bus Crash


Police investigating a weekend bus crash in Spain that killed 13 foreign students said Wednesday they suspect the driver either dozed off or became distracted by a conversation just before the accident.

The 62-year-old driver suffered chest injuries in Sunday's accident in the northeastern region of Catalonia and is in critical condition in hospital after his health worsened.

He was detained after the crash and put under official investigation for 13 counts of involuntary manslaughter but refused to be questioned by police on the advice of his lawyer.

"The main hypothesis for the cause of the accident is sleepiness," said a spokeswoman for the Mossos d'Esquadra, the regional police force in Catalonia which is investigating the accident.

"But the investigators are also working on the possibility of a distraction, that he was speaking on a mobile telephone or turned around to talk to someone."

The experienced driver lost control of the coach which crossed the central reservation and crashed into an oncoming car at Freginals, a small town about 150 kilometers (95 miles) south of Barcelona, just before 6:00 am (0500 GMT) on Sunday.

He passed alcohol and drug tests administered immediately after the accident.

Seven Italians and two Germans were among the dead along with another four passengers -- from Romania, Austria, France and Uzbekistan -- all of them women aged between 19 and 25.

None of the fatal victims of the accident was wearing a seat belt, the police spokeswoman said.

The bus was carrying 57 passengers from about 20 countries, many of them students on the European Erasmus exchange program in Barcelona.

An investigation into a 2013 train derailment in northwestern Spain concluded that the driver was talking on a work mobile phone to a co-worker just moments before that accident.

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