Reconstruction of Swiss bus crash “shows driver was suicidal” — (Flanders Today)

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Flanders Today

July 16, 2014

by Alan Hope

Widow refutes claims

The bus crash in a Swiss tunnel that killed 22 Flemish schoolchildren and six adults in March 2012 was “no accident”, according to independent investigators employed by some of the victims’ parents who are unsatisfied by the Swiss authorities’ investigation.

At the end of last month, the Swiss prosecutor in charge of the case, Olivier Elsig, officially closed the case with no charges being filed. The accident was the result of the driver losing control for an unknown reason, Elsig concluded, but there was no question of criminal culpability.

A group of parents has never been satisfied by Elsig’s investigation, and after he refused last December to carry out a reconstruction of the crash, they hired their own investigators, the Dutch-based forensic agency Independent Forensic Services (IFS), part of an American parent company.

IFS has now carried out its own reconstruction and reports that driver Geert Michiels, the younger of the two drivers, made two clear movements seconds before the crash, consciously and with the intention of running the bus into the wall of the tunnel. Michiels had been taking medication for depression, and the parents allege he committed suicide.

“The driver at no time lost control of the steering wheel,” IFS researcher Selma Eikenboom told Dutch TV. “He made those movements consciously, with some force. Then he drove straight on for several seconds and into the wall. That’s not something you do if you’re feeling faint.” Asked if this demonstrated his suicidal intent, she said. “That’s a conclusion you may draw for yourself. This is technical evidence that speaks for itself.”

According to Dutch lawyer Job Knoester, acting for the parents, Michiels’ medication,  Seroxat or paroxetine, has been implicated in cases of suicide and serious aggression aimed at others. “If you know that, then the matter has to be investigated,” he said. “It seems as if the Swiss didn’t want to look into the question at all.”

The medical literature limits the effect of increased suicidal tendencies to children and those under the age of 25. Michiels was 35.

The driver’s widow, Evy Laermans, continues to defend her husband against the parents’ allegations. The IFS report, she said, raises more questions than it answers. “They’re only interested in providing proof for their own prejudices,” she said. The reconstruction took place in a different setting, using a different model of bus in daylight carrying fewer passengers and baggage, and less weight, she pointed out. “IFS is giving out no information on all of these elements which can influence the movements of the bus,” she said.

Photo: Belga/AFP