A BUS packed with rush-hour commuters crashed into a train after jumping a red light at a level crossing in central Ukraine yesterday, killing 40 people.
Three of the dead were children, and another people were 10 injured.
The bus was reduced to mangled wreckage by the force of the impact, after which it was pushed at speed further down the line in the Dnipropetrovsk region.
The bus was still stuck wrapped around the front of the train across the railway line last night, its yellow roof charred, windows blown out and seats reduced to pieces of blackened metal.
Bodies were lying to the side of the track.
“According to preliminary information, 40 people were killed and 10 wounded,” Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said at the start of a cabinet meeting after the crash, requesting a minute’s silence for the victims.
President Viktor Yanukovych, who was in the region’s main centre of Dnipropetrovsk for a meeting on economic reform, declared a day of national mourning for today. He conveyed his condolences to the relatives of the victims and said a committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Kluyev had been set up to investigate the cause of the crash and help the families of victims, and was due to arrive at the scene last night.
“The head of state has ordered law enforcement agencies to carry out a detailed investigation to establish those responsible for the accident,” a statement on the presidential website said.
The Ministry of the Interior said the train had dragged the bus along the rail line for 30m after the impact.
Some of the wounded were in a critical condition, and the death toll could rise.
Local police said the blame lay with the driver of the bus for breaking a red light, although there were no firm conclusions from investigators.
“The driver of the bus broke traffic laws by driving through a red light before colliding with the train,” said a spokeswoman for the regional traffic police, Lyudmila Bashmakova.
The ministry said that according to witnesses: “The bus engine stopped at the level crossing as the driver was changing gears.”
“It’s utter carnage there,” Ms Bashmakova said. There were three children among the dead.
The spokeswoman said the accident happened at 8.30am (4.30pm AEST). It was an inter-city passenger bus carrying locals.
The collision took place near the town of Marganets, 100km south of Dnipropetrovsk and close to the city of Zaporizhia.
Ukraine has a terrible road safety record due to ageing vehicles and drivers who repeatedly flout road rules, with thousands killed on the road every year.