Tallulah Lyons was one of the exchange students involved in the horror bus crash in Catalonia, Spain. Photo / Facebook
A British student on a bus which crashed in Spain, killing 13 women, has described trying to crawl out of the vehicle after waking up and seeing people lying on the floor.
Tallulah Lyons, a second year student at the University of Southampton, was one of a reported 34 people injured when the bus, carrying 57 passengers, crashed on a highway on Sunday while returning from the country’s largest fireworks festival.
She wrote on Facebook to friends and family: “Some of you may have seen the news about the coach accident in Spain this morning and unfortunately I was involved in this incident…
But I’m alive and well with just three broken vertabreas and a broken chest bone but I will make a full recovery. Thanks for your messages and kind words.”
Investigators are reportedly focusing on the theory that the coach driver crashed after falling asleep at the wheel.
Authorities said the vehicle hit a railing and then swerved on to the other side of the road on the AP7 highway in Tarragona, Spain, colliding with a vehicle coming from the opposite direction.
Ms Lyons, who is in Spain for a semester of her English degree, told the BBC: “I just remember waking up and people were on the floor.
I was trying to crawl out with friends – and that’s when we realised some people were trapped. It took about two hours to get everyone out.”
Two Irish students were also injured while on their way back from the renowned Fallas fireworks festival in Valencia when the coach hit the barriers of the AP7 highway near Freginals, halfway between Valencia and Barcelona.
Seven of those killed in the crash were from Italy, Catalonian Interior department director Jordi Jane told reporters.
The rest of the victims, all aged between 19 and 25 years old, were made up of two Germans, one Austrian, one French woman, a Romanian and a woman from Uzbekistan, the official said.
Local reports said the injured, mostly aged between 22 and 29, were also from Switzerland, Norway, Turkey and Ukraine as well as from Barcelona.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is reported to have confirmed all those who died are women before announcing two days of mourning.
One of the nine people seriously hurt was said to be fighting for life in hospital today.
Spain’s Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said the crash appeared to be down to an “undefined human error” and revealed the coach driver was a veteran with 17 years experience who had never been involved in an accident and tested negative for drugs and alcohol.
Emergency services personnel stand at the scene of the bus accident crashed on the AP7 highway. Photo / AP
He said: “It appears an undetermined human error and not a mechanical failure was to blame.
The driver has tested negative for alcohol and drugs so those factors are ruled out.”
A University of Southampton spokeswoman said: “We are very pleased to hear that Tallulah is safe and recovering. We have made contact with her to extend our full range of support services.”
The British Foreign Office said: “Consular staff have been deployed to visit a British national who was injured following the coach crash in Tarragona, and we remain in contact with the local authorities over the situation.”
One of the injured Irish people is understood to be a student at University College Cork.
A spokesman for Emergencies Catalunya said the students were from 19 different countries including Britiain, Ireland, Peru, Bulgaria, Poland, Palestine, Japan, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland.
The students were enrolled at the University of Barcelona as part of the European Erasmus exchange programme, said Catalonian Interior Minister Jordi Jane.
They had traveled to Valencia to take part in the renowned ‘Fallas’ fireworks festival and were returning when the bus crashed.
The accident occurred near the small town of Freginals, about 95 miles south of Barcelona.
Around 20 fire crews and seven ambulances were said to have been sent to the seen to help free people trapped inside.
The driver “hit the railing on the right and swerved to the left so violently that the bus veered onto the other side of the highway,” Mr Jane said.
The bus then hit a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, injuring two people inside, he added.
Mr Jane said: “They are from various countries. We are currently working on a list of the people and their nationalities. They were related groups and mostly Erasmus students studying at different universities who had organised this trip to Valencia.
The Foreign Office has confirmed it is working with Spanish authorities over the incident but has been unable to confirm how many British people were involved in the crash or whether any were killed.
Mexican exchange student Victor Pano Torres, 21, was on the coach and revealed speaking with a neck brace from a hotel near the crash scene where the less seriously-injured were taken, added: “I was asleep and don’t remember anything.
The accident woke me up. A friend was travelling in front of me but thankfully he’s okay too.”
Mr Jane, speaking at a hastily-arranged press conference, said: “It appears 57 people including the driver were travelling in the coach.
Of these 57 people, 14 have died and 43 people have survived together with two people from Catalunya travelling in the car involved in the accident who were travelling in the opposite direction towards Valencia.”
Meanwhile local media in Freginals reported the town Mayor Josep Roncero described the stretch of road as an “accident blackspot”.
He said: “We are shocked. We know that victims are very young and today is a very sad day. It’s a completely chilling sight to see what happened here.”
The coach that crashed, a three-year-old vehicle which had passed all its MOTs was one of five belonging to the same firm that were returning together from Valencia but had become separated from the convoy.
In a statement released via social media, the University of Barcelona offered its condolences to the victims’ families and said it would help however it could.
The statement said: “The #UniBarcelona sends its condolences to the families and relatives of the victims of today’s bus accident. We remain at your disposal for any further needs.”
The university also ordered its flags to be flown at half-mast as a sign of respect towards the dead.
Erasmus Student Network Barcelona, an organisation representing Erasmus students throughout the city, also paid tribute to the victims.
A statement said: “ESN Barcelona, consisting of ESN Barcelona UB, ESN Barcelona UPF, ESN UPC Barcelona and UAB Barcelona, issues this statement due to the tragic accident that occurred this morning, involving one of our buses of the trip to ‘Las Fallas de Valencia’ organized by ESN Barcelona.
There were 57 students in this bus. At the moment and according to official sources, 14 international students have lost their lives.
For the moment we know that 13 people are slightly injured and around 30 are hospitalized in several hospitals of Amposta, Reus and Tarragona.
ESN Barcelona would like to convey our condolences and join the pain of the families, friends and relatives of the victims.
We feel the deep loss. In the same way we would like to express our sincere willingness to be as helpful as possible with the family, friends or institutions.”
Alejandro Lopez, owner of Autocares Alejandro based near Barcelona who was driving the vehicle in front of the one that crashed, said: “I lost sight of my colleague who was behind me before crossing a bridge over the River Ebro and I began to grow suspicious.
I stopped in a service station because I knew something had happened and began to call him but he didn’t pick up the phone.
Fifteen minutes later I was told there had been an accident with fatalities.”
The drivers of the other vehicles are believed to have been told about the accident only when the reached their final destination.
Most of the students were initially described as studying at Barcelona University but Mr Jane said he was unable to confirm that information.
The Erasmus program provides foreign exchange courses for students from counties within the 28-nation European Union and enables them to attend many of the continent’s best universities.
The tragedy is one of the worst involving a coach in recent years in Spain. Twenty-eight people, mostly teenagers, died in July 2000 when a coach and a lorry collided with each other near the northern city of Soria.
The Fallas, an annual festival in Valencia which the students were returning from, is held every March and attracts many foreign visitors as well as Spanish tourists.
The city of just over one million inhabitants swells as around two million revellers descend on the city. The focus of the festival are huge cardboard, wood, papier-mache and plaster statues which are set alight. Many poke fun at corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities.
A beach volley event the association had organised in Barcelona was cancelled following the crash.
Spain’s Royal Family tweeted from its official account: “Our feelings and support to the families of the victims and the injured in the coach accident on the AP-7 in Freginals.’
Acting PM Mariano Rajoy tweeted: ‘Tragic accident in Freginals. My condolences to the family of the dead and my hopes the injured recover soon.”