MILLAS, France — A crash between a bus carrying students and a train here on Thursday caused multiple fatalities and injuries, authorities said.
The French Ministry of the Interior said in a press release that the bus was carrying 23 passengers when it was struck by the regional express train around 4 p.m.
The crash occurred at a railroad crossing in Millas, a village in southern France near the border with Spain.
Ninety-five firefighters and 15 police units were dispatched to the scene, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Medical and psychological emergency services and civil security associations were mobilized to support the families affected by the crash.
Photos from the scene show the coach-type bus split in two over the train tracks:
The AFP news agency reported on Sunday that five children were killed and 20 people were injured in the crash.
On Monday, a Pyrénées-Orientales state official said in a press release that another victim had died, bringing the death toll to six.
At issue in the investigation is whether the safety barriers at the railroad crossing were open or closed when the bus moved onto the tracks.
"There are witnesses who say the barrier was closed and others who say it was open. We have not finished the investigation," state prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux said, according to AFP.
The news agency also reported that the bus driver told her employer that the crossing barriers were open.
The students on the bus were on their way home from the Christian Bourquin school in Millas. The French minister of national education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, visited the school on Friday morning to support students, families, and the educational community.
The Ministry of National Education said in a press release that Blanquer “expresses his immense sadness after the school bus accident in Millas. … He sends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and their loved ones.”
Blanquer also addressed the tragedy on Twitter, saying in one post that “La France est en deuil.” Translation: “France is in mourning.”