In Puisseguin, the fear of 43 dead for nothing



On the place of Petit-Palais-et-Cornemps (Gironde), a stele bears 41 names of travelers ” left by bus on October 23, 2015 and tragically disappeared in Puisseguin – two other victims could not be identified. Just five years ago, the local club of the 3rd age was going on an excursion in Béarn when, at the exit of Puisseguin, not far from Saint-Émilion, its coach struck a truck, which had swerved in a bend and whose driver died instantly.

This Friday, the victims will lay wreaths there, without further ceremony because of Covid-19. ” The accident left an irreparable mark on the villages concerned, where the memory is still very strong. », Says Father Pascal Salin, priest of the parish in 2015.« Here, everyone has lost a loved one, or knows someone who died in Puisseguin », Specifies an inhabitant of this village which has a little less than 800.

Survival instinct

Raymond Silvestrini is one of the eight survivors. In a survival instinct, he manages that day to break the window and clear the window, just before the fire breaks out, and the smoke very quickly suffocates the occupants of the bus. This SNCF retiree comes out with four fractured vertebrae, but he loses his partner, his uncle and his two sisters-in-law in the disaster. ” I am a miracle, he said. First we say to ourselves “why me”, then we are happy to be still here and to see our children and grandchildren. “.

Little by little, Raymond Silvestrini got up. Thanks to his friends, hunters. And to his new companion, another survivor. ” The accident brought us closer, confides this member of the collective of victims, who does not disarm. Without the fire, there would have been no death, because the shock was mild. I am therefore still waiting for explanations on the speed of the disaster in a bus which should be equipped with fireproof materials. But I think in my lifetime I won’t have one. “

Unanswered questions

In 2017, the transport accident investigation office (BEA-TT) attributed the “direct cause” of the accident to a loss of control of the truck. And this year, the Libourne examining magistrate closed his investigation without indictment. ” Obviously, we are moving towards a non-place », Affirms Marie Mescam, lawyer of 160 of the 523 of the direct or indirect victims. Compensated by insurance – 11 million euros in total -, they will therefore probably not have a criminal trial.

We are very disappointed, loose Michel Vigier, president of the collective of victims. For the judge, 43 people died legally. The BEA-TT has however also questioned the safety devices – the lighting in the coach after the collision, access to smoke extraction devices … The Ministry of Transport should demand a strengthening of European standards, but it no longer responds to our letters “.

These are however the same problems as those raised by the accident of Beaune (53 deaths in 1982), in particular that of the plastic materials and fabrics in the coaches, their resistance to fire and the toxicity of the gases released by their combustion. », Abounds Michel Vigier’s wife, Hélène, whose mother died in Puisseguin.

An information brochure

The collective demands, in vain for the moment, that Mercedes, the manufacturer of the coach, be auditioned. The Libourne prosecutor will explain the position of the prosecution at the end of the year. ” We do not systematically search for a culprit, specifies Michel Vigier, but we could have improved the safety conditions in coaches, while there are more and more of them on the roads since the Macron law. We have the impression that our deaths were for nothing.

A huge loss for two tiny advances, he concludes: the limitation of the speed in the turn to 50 km / hour by the department of Gironde. And, following an amendment tabled by the deputy of the constituency, the provision of information brochures on safety in buses, as in planes, from 2022.

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