Coach carrying tour group from Saxony runs into back of slow-moving lorry on motorway near Bayreuth.
German police believe 18 people have died after a coach burst into flames following a collision with a lorry on a motorway in Bavaria on Monday morning.
Police said a group of 46 pensioners and two drivers were on the coach when it caught fire after driving into the back of a slow-moving articulated lorry on the A9, which connects Berlin and Munich via Leipzig and Nuremberg.
“Thirty passengers were taken to hospitals, some with serious injuries. The others are believed to have died in the burning tour bus,” the police said.
Local media reported that the lorry, which was loaded with pillows and mattresses, caught fire at the moment of impact.
The A9 was closed in both directions as several fire and ambulance vehicles, including helicopters, rushed to the scene, close to the town of Stammbach.
According to Bild newspaper, the coach had been travelling from the Lausitz region towards Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake and a popular tourist destination.
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “great dismay” over the crash, which occurred near Bayreuth, known for its opera festival, which draws thousands of classical music lovers every summer.
If the death toll is confirmed the crash will rank as one of the worst in Germany.
Among the deadliest in recent years was a collision in June 2007, when 13 people were killed as their tour bus drove off the road and plunged several metres down a slope in Saxony-Anhalt state.
In September 1992, 21 people died when a bus swerved out of its lane and struck a truck before ramming into the road divider in the southern Black Forest region.