Madeira coach crash victims were ‘thrown around like paper’ – survivor reveals6 min read

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Survivors of the deadly bus crash in Madeira which killed 29 German tourists have described the horror moment the bus careered off a mountain road.

Passengers Brigitte and Heinz Garden said people onboard the doomed coach ‘flew through the bus like paper’ during the accident near the town of Canico on Monday evening.

The couple told German newspaper Bild they believed the brakes weren’t working on the coach and said they ‘couldn’t imagine another reason’ why it crashed.

‘I think the brakes did not work. I can not imagine another cause,’ Heinz Garden said.

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A crane removes the wreckage of the tourist bus from the place in which it crashed in the hotel district east of Funchal

A crane removes the wreckage of the tourist bus from the place in which it crashed in the hotel district east of Funchal

Brigitte and Heinz Garden (pictured) told German newspaper Bild they were onboard the bus during the deadly crash on Wednesday

Brigitte and Heinz Garden (pictured) told German newspaper Bild they were onboard the bus during the deadly crash on Wednesday

The wreckage of the bus was hauled away by a truck in the middle of the night on Wednesday after the deadly incident

The wreckage of the bus was hauled away by a truck in the middle of the night on Wednesday after the deadly incident

Twenty nine German tourists died and 22 more were injured when a coach carrying them from the  Quinta Splendida hotel in Madeira and heading towards the capital of Funchal came off the road and overturned

Twenty nine German tourists died and 22 more were injured when a coach carrying them from the  Quinta Splendida hotel in Madeira and heading towards the capital of Funchal came off the road and overturned

‘The bus set off from the Quinta Splendida, after a few seconds it started travelling faster and faster. He hit the wall, and we immediately knew he was out of control.

‘He got faster and faster, and then he rolled over,’ Mr Garden added.

Mr Garden escaped with a broken rib while his wife Brigitte was said to have a ‘minor neck injury’.

Brigitte Garden said in the aftermath she believed they only managed to survive because they adopted the ‘brace’ position.  

‘We positioned ourselves the way you’re always told to on a plane. We made ourselves small like babies, and held on. And that’s what made us lucky,’ she says, ‘Large people simply flew through the bus like paper.’  

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Portugal’s foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that all 29 people killed in a tour bus crash on Portugal’s Madeira Island were German

The bus was carrying 55 people, all were German tourists, except a Portuguese driver and guide.

It rolled down a steep hill after veering off the road on a bend east of Madeira’s capital, Funchal, on Wednesday evening in clear weather conditions. The crash injured 28 others.

Drone footage shows the wreckage of the tourist bus which rolled onto its side after falling off the road on Wednesday evening

Drone footage shows the wreckage of the tourist bus which rolled onto its side after falling off the road on Wednesday evening

The windows of the bus were smashed and the bodywork and chassis were badly damaged as it rolled off the mountain road

The windows of the bus were smashed and the bodywork and chassis were badly damaged as it rolled off the mountain road

The roof of the coach was pictured having caved in on top of many of the seats towards the middle of the vehicle during the horror smash

The roof of the coach was pictured having caved in on top of many of the seats towards the middle of the vehicle during the horror smash

A foreign ministry statement reiterated the government’s condolences to the families of victims, and said the crash ‘claimed the lives of 29 German citizens’.

Authorities said they are investigating the cause and would inspect the bus for mechanical problems.

People at the roadside are also thought to be among the injured.

Tomasia Alves, head of the Funchal hospital, said authorities hope to have a list of victims by Saturday. She said the victims were roughly between 40 and 60 years old and included no children. She said 28 people were taken from the accident scene to a morgue, and another person died later in hospital.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas said he was ‘deeply shaken by the tragic bus crash’. He is due to travel to Madeira to meet his Portuguese counterpart.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed ‘sadness and shock’ at the accident.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (right), his Portuguese counterpart, Augusto Santos Silva (second right) and vice-president of Madeira's regional government, Pedro Calado lay flowers

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (right), his Portuguese counterpart, Augusto Santos Silva (second right) and vice-president of Madeira’s regional government, Pedro Calado lay flowers

A phalanx of photographers and cameramen surrounds the German foreign minister as he expressed his sorrow at the crash site

A phalanx of photographers and cameramen surrounds the German foreign minister as he expressed his sorrow at the crash site

‘My sincere sympathy goes especially to all of the families who have lost their loved ones in this tragedy,’ she said.

Rescue services used two cranes before dawn on Thursday to pull the bus, which was lying on its side with part of its roof torn off, from the crash site, local media reported.

The wall of a house, which appeared to have halted the bus’s fall, was smashed in. Parts of the bus, including seats, and items of clothing littered the grassy hillside, which looks out over the Atlantic Ocean.

The tourists reportedly were staying at the nearby Quinta Splendida, a hotel restored from a 19th-century manor house.

Madeira, off the coast of north-west Africa, is a popular vacation destination for Europeans due to its mild climate and lush, hilly landscape.

A German pastor on Madeira praised the medics who cared for the survivors.

Ilse Everlien Berardo told a German broadcaster the survivors she spoke to were in a state of shock.

She said Madeira officials immediately looked for people on the island who spoke German.

‘Even though the doctors and nurses cared touchingly for the injured it’s also always important to hear your mother tongue and get a few words of attention,’ she said.

Firefighters working to free the victims from the wreckage of the toppled bus on Wednesday as emergency services rushed to treat the survivors

Firefighters working to free the victims from the wreckage of the toppled bus on Wednesday as emergency services rushed to treat the survivors

Emergency workers used two cranes to remove the wreckage of the coach on Thursday morning, revealing a large hole in a nearby house roof where it came to rest

Emergency workers used two cranes to remove the wreckage of the coach on Thursday morning, revealing a large hole in a nearby house roof where it came to rest

The exact cause of the crash remained unknown Thursday morning, and Portuguese authorities had not identified any of the victims by either name or nationality

The exact cause of the crash remained unknown Thursday morning, and Portuguese authorities had not identified any of the victims by either name or nationality

A trail of debris destruction was revealed after the coach was removed Thursday morning, including seat cushions, toppled road signs and people's belongings that had been thrown clear of the wreck

A trail of debris destruction was revealed after the coach was removed Thursday morning, including seat cushions, toppled road signs and people’s belongings that had been thrown clear of the wreck

A bandanna and torn piece of shirt are pictured by the side of the road following the bus crash on Madeira

A bandanna and torn piece of shirt are pictured by the side of the road following the bus crash on Madeira 

A pane of glass from the coach was among the debris left strewn down a Madeira hillside after a coach came off the road

A pane of glass from the coach was among the debris left strewn down a Madeira hillside after a coach came off the road

Dramatic images showed the overturned bus on its side among a row of houses having fallen off the edge of a winding road

Dramatic images showed the overturned bus on its side among a row of houses having fallen off the edge of a winding road 

A blood-soaked passenger receives emergency medical assistance from doctors near the site of the devastating crash on Wednesday

A blood-soaked passenger receives emergency medical assistance from doctors near the site of the devastating crash on Wednesday 

The roof of the bus could be seen to have ripped off during the impact as rescuers removed bodies from the wreckage

Ambulances lined up along the mountain road above the crash site and treated passengers before taking them to hospital in Funchal

Ambulances lined up along the mountain road above the crash site and treated passengers before taking them to hospital in Funchal

Shocked locals could be seen standing near the crash site on their phones as emergency services battled to clear the crash site

Shocked locals could be seen standing near the crash site on their phones as emergency services battled to clear the crash site