A bus transporting retirees on a daytrip and a truck collided and caught fire Friday on a country road in wine country in southwest France, killing 42 people and gravely injuring at least four others, authorities say. It was the nation's deadliest road accident in decades. An image released by BFM TV showed the carcass of the bus—nothing but a collapsing, charred frame engulfed by smoke. Firefighters fanned out along the narrow road near the village of Puisseguin, about 30 miles east of Bordeaux. Eight people escaped from the bus after the driver opened the door, but others were trapped as the blaze consumed the vehicle, Puisseguin Mayor Xavier Sublett says.
The mayor tells RTL radio that the truck driver lost control of the vehicle. The bus driver "tried to avoid it, but the truck came and hit it, and he couldn't do anything except activate the mechanism to open the doors to allow some people to get out," Sublett said. Police say the death toll was so unusually high because both vehicles caught fire. The truck was carrying lumber, according to BFM TV, while the bus was carrying retirees from the tiny town of Petit Palais on a one-day tourist trip to another area of southwest France, legislator Gilles Savary said. It had traveled just 4 miles when the collision occurred. (Read more France stories.)