Parents of Sierre bus crash victims hire own investigators

Summary

Some of the parents of children killed in the 2012 Swiss motorway crash want the investigation reviewed

Group seeks court order

The clash between some of the parents of victims of the Sierre school bus crash and the local prosecutor continued at the weekend, with the announcement that a number of parents have brought in a team of independent experts to review the entire Swiss investigation.

Olivier Elsig (pictured at a news conference in Brussels in 2012), prosecutor for the Valais canton, where the accident took place in March 2012, responded by refusing to hand over a DNA sample from one of the drivers.

The crash took place in a motorway tunnel as a coachload of children and staff from two schools in Flanders were returning from a skiing holiday. Twenty-eight people were killed, including 22 children and both drivers.

The Swiss have completed their investigation and concluded that, while the exact cause of the crash could not be determined, hypotheses, including a suicidal action by one of the drivers could be ruled out.

A group of parents have consistently refused to accept this conclusion and recently asked a court to force Elsig to investigate a mobile phone the driver in question owned but did not have with him at the time of the crash. Elsig said that investigation had been carried out and had provided no evidence.

Now the parents have retained the services of an independent forensic research bureau to go over the investigation again with the possible suicidal act in mind. They were due to seek a court order today for DNA evidence to be handed over.

“I will not respond to requests I have not yet received,” said Elsig, “but I can state that it is impossible to hand over to third parties documents or other objects that have formed part of a judicial investigation. It is, however, always possible to request a second expert opinion within the framework of our investigation.”

The parents are concerned at news that Geert Michiels, the younger of the two bus drivers, both of whom came from Aarschot, was taking medication that can be prescribed for depression. According to Dutch research, they claim, this medication can cause suicidal feelings in people with a particular DNA defect.

Michiels’ widow said it was beginning to feel like a “personal vendetta”.

“These are serious questions,” said the parents’ lawyer, Job Knoester. “I think you have to the show parents the respect of saying ultimately we have done everything that could be done, and that is not yet the case.”

Photo by Olivier Hoslet/epa/Corbis