A bus carrying university exchange students back from Spain’s largest fireworks festival crashed Sunday on a main highway in the northeast, killing at least 13 passengers and injuring 34 others, officials said.
The passengers included Spaniards and foreign nationals from more than a dozen countries, authorities said.
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz later confirmed the death toll was 13. He said 28 passengers received medical treatment in local hospitals and others received first aid at the crash site.
The bus, which was carrying 57 passengers, appeared to have hit a guardrail of the AP7 highway before cartwheeling across the road, slamming through a divider and landing on its side, said Jordi Jane, spokesman for Spain’s northeastern Catalonia province.
The students, part of the Erasmus exchange program, had traveled to the eastern city of Valencia and were returning when the bus crashed, Jane said. Most were studying at two universities in Barcelona.
The crash took place near Freginals, halfway between Valencia and Barcelona.
Catalan regional government officials released a statement listing a number of consulates they were reaching out to, but declined to say if the consulates listed were linked to those killed or those who traveled in the buses.
The bus that crashed was one of five that had traveled to the festival with students from Barcelona, the Catalan government said in a statement.
Broadcast images from TVE showed the bus also crashed into an oncoming car on the opposite side of the highway. The passengers in the car were injured, the Catalan government said.
The bus driver was being held at a police station in the city of Tortosa, Jane said. Road conditions were good at the time of the crash and investigators were looking into the cause of the tragedy, he said.
Fernandez Diaz said the driver passed alcohol and drug tests he was given.
Jane said emergency rescue workers were working to clear the wreckage that had closed the major highway linking Spain with France along the Mediterranean coast in both directions.
The Erasmus program provides foreign exchange courses for students from counties within the 28-nation European Union and enables them to attend many of the continent’s best universities.
Updated Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 3:15 pm