12 Portuguese die in head-on crash in central France

PARIS (AP) — A minibus carrying Portuguese nationals resident in Switzerland back home for the Easter vacation crashed head-on with a truck in central France, killing all 12 passengers including a 7-year-old girl, authorities said Friday.

French interior and transport ministries said the crash occurred on a National Route highway near the small town of Montbeugny, just over 300 kilometers (about 185 miles) south of Paris.

The Allier prefecture, the regional state authority, said the minibus swerved for unclear reasons and hit a truck traveling in the opposite direction just before midnight Thursday. The driver of the minibus was injured but survived, while all the passengers died. The two occupants of the truck, both Italian, were slightly injured, the prefecture said.

An Interior Ministry statement said bodies were placed in the local meeting hall. A unit of doctors and psychologists was set up to receive families of the victims, the prefecture said.

Portugal’s Ministry for Communities Overseas said the youngest to die was a 7-year-old girl, the oldest 63, and that the passengers were all resident in Fribourg in western Switzerland and had been traveling home to celebrate Easter with family and friends when the accident happened.

An impromptu chapel of rest has been set up in the meeting hall in France until authorities released the bodies for burial, the Portuguese ministry said.

Gendarmes are investigating the circumstances that led to the accident.

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