Seven Italians killed in Spain bus crash

Renzi meets victims' families in Catalonia

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Italy was in shock Monday after Spanish authorities confirmed that seven Italians were among 13 Erasmus exchange students killed in Sunday's bus crash in the Catalonia region of Spain. The Italian victims were named as Francesca Bonello, Lucrezia Borghi, Valentina Gallo, Elena Maestrini, Elisa Scarascia Mugnozza, Serena Saracino, and Elisa Valent. Another 34 people were injured in the crash, six of them Italians. Two were treated and released, and four others - three young women and a young man - are still being treated for non-life threatening injuries at hospitals in Barcelona, Reus, Tarragona and Tortosa. The bus was taking the Erasmus students back to their base in Barcelona after attending Valencia's famous Las Falles festival, in which each city district burns a wood and paper mache monument it has worked year round to build. "I'm sorry, I fell asleep," the 63-year-old driver reportedly told emergency rescue workers at the crash site. The man is reportedly being investigated for 13 negligent homicides and is hospitalized in intensive care with a pulmonary contusion.
    Premier Matteo Renzi flew to Barcelona on Monday to personally convey the nation's condolences to the grieving parents, some of whom had driven all night to reach the Catalonian capital so they could identify their daughters' bodies because they couldn't get a flight.
    President Sergio Mattarella sent condolences to the families of the victims of "the extremely serious and absurd incident...which caused the death of so many young university students, a lot of them Italian. This is a very sad day for Italy and for Europe". Pope Francis sent a telegram to Tortosa Bishop Enrique Benavent Vidal, saying he was "deeply pained" at the "irreparable loss" of young lives, and voiced hope that the injured would recover quickly. An important meeting of Premier Matteo Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) that was set to take place later on Monday was cancelled in the wake of the crash. Catalonia is holding two days of mourning on Monday and Tuesday. Under 2006 European Union regulations, professional drivers must not get behind the wheel more than nine consecutive hours and must rest for at least 11 consecutive hours within a 24-hour period. Transportation companies cannot offer bonuses or raises based on distances driven, and are as liable for any violations or crashes as the drivers are.