Survivors of a bus crash that claimed 16 lives in northern Italy over the weekend told local media Sunday they were saved thanks to an heroic teacher and his wife, but also by an equally heroic student.
The bus carrying Hungarian high school students and teachers from a ski trip in France back to Budapest went off the road, slammed into a pylon, and burst into flames shortly before midnight Friday (2300 GMT Friday) on the A4 motorway near Verona.
Gym teacher Gyorgy Vigh and his wife, Erika, did not hesitate to risk their lives to get students out of the blazing bus, but where unable to extract their own children, Balazs and Laura, both 18, wrote the Corriere della Sera paper.
"In the impact, Laura slipped and got stuck under a seat," Erika Vigh said from hospital. "I tried to drag her out, but I didn't make it. A fireball threw me back by 5 metres. One moment later, it was already too late, I couldn't see anything any more, just the fire."
The Hungarian consul in Milan told Italian news agency ANSA on Sunday that the couple's children were both confirmed dead.
"He wasn't able to save his son and daughter," Consul General Judith Timaffy told ANSA.
Survivors also spoke of a student who saved lives by running up and down the aisle of the bus, breaking the windows with an emergency hammer.
"There was guy a little older than me," a student named Andras told the La Stampa paper. "He was holding a hammer and was breaking the windows, he was running up and down the bus to break as many windows as he could.
When he broke the one next to me I threw myself out. I don't know if I would have been able to get out if he hadn't been so brave. I never saw him again."
Police found the boy's body near the windows, still holding the hammer, highway police chief Girolamo Lacquaniti told local media.
Verona police confirmed 16 deaths to dpa, adding the bus was carrying students aged 15-19.
The police official said a Slovenian truck driver who had been following the bus reported to police he noticed one of its wheels appeared to be malfunctioning. He tried to alert the bus driver by flashing his lights, to no avail.
Police photos of the crash show a towering blaze and the charred, blackened carcass of the bus once the fire was put out.
Of the survivors, one victim is in an induced coma, 12 people have suffered severe injuries, and 13 others are being treated for minor injuries, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto confirmed in Budapest on Saturday.