Expert report calls for better fire prevention in coach building
Two years after 43 people died in a coach catching fire after a collision with a truck in Puisseguin (France), the official BEA-TT report is released. It calls for a better fire prevention in using materials for building coaches, better smoke evacuation and even an extra emergency exit door at the rear of the bus.
France might ‘evolve’ its legislation in this sense, but others call upon Europe to adapt its standards for the homologation of coaches and buses.
Non-regulatory tank ripped open
On October 23th 2015 a truck lost control in a bend on a narrow regional road in Puisseguin (Gironde), colliding with a coach coming from the opposite direction. According to the report from the French investigation bureau for road transport accidents BEA-TT, this loss of control by the truck driver, caused the initial accident.
The truck had a non-regulatory extra fuel tank mounted behind its cabin, which ripped open and spilled hundreds of liters of diesel under the two vehicles. They caught fire immediately. Although nobody died by the initial shock, 43 people got killed by the toxic gasses and the flames spreading rapidly.
Materials used in the interior
According to the BEA-TT report the severity of the accident was caused partially “by the nature of the materials used on the inside of the coach, their behaviour in the fire and the toxic gases they produced”. Other factors were “the impossibility for passengers to activate smoke evacuation facilities” and “difficulties to find emergency exits by lack of interior lighting”.
“We never got an answer to the question why these materials showed out to be so inflammable and the gases so toxic”, Marie Mescam, lawyer for several families of victims says. “The biggest surprise for the victims is finding out fire prevention standards in coaches are extremely low”.
Mescam adds: “The least this tragedy could bring out for good, is that people can expect safety in a coach being at least the same as in an airplane”. She calls upon authorities to do something about this knowing that “in France every month a bus is catching fire”.
The BEA-TT concludes it is necessary to adjust the legislation regarding controls on the installation of extra fuel tanks on vehicles. But also advises to improve the fire resistance of materials used in building coaches and buses and set out new standards for toxic gases formed when these materials catch fire.
For safety, the BEA-TT report suggests a better way to operate smoke evacuation devices and add another emergency door at the back part of the coach or make it possible to open the windows instantaneously.