School bus driver charged in deadly French train collision

December 21, 2017

In this photo provided by France Bleu, rescue workers help after a school bus and a regional train collided in the village of Millas, southern France, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. A school bus and a regional train collided in southern France on Thursday, killing four children and critically injuring several other people on the bus, the French interior ministry said. (Matthieu Ferri/France Bleu via AP)

PARIS (AP) — French authorities have filed preliminary charges against the driver of a school bus that collided with a regional train in southern France, killing six children.

The investigation is focusing on whether the crossing barriers onto the tracks were raised or lowered in last week’s accident in the village of Millas in the eastern Pyrenees.

The bus driver, a 46-year-old woman who was also injured, said they were raised. But the local prosecutor said initial evidence and witness statements suggest they weren’t.

A judicial official said Thursday that the driver is accused of manslaughter and involuntary injury. The driver’s lawyer Jean Codognes told broadcaster BFM that she was hospitalized and in deep distress after being questioned by police Wednesday.

Funeral ceremonies are being held throughout the week for those killed, all middle school or high school students in the region.

At a memorial Thursday, the region’s top government official read a message from President Emmanuel Macron to the children’s families and friends.

“All of France is with (you) in sadness and pain,” he said. “Today the word fraternity, part of our national motto, takes on its full meaning. The nation should stay at the sides of those who are suffering.”

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