Puisseguin english summary
On 23 October 2015, at around 07.30, near the town of Puisseguin in the department of Gironde (33), an articulated lorry (consisting of a tractor unit and an empty wood trailer) with two people on board, travelling on the B-Road RD 17 towards the town of Puisseguin, jack-knifed when navigating a right-hand bend and passed into the opposite lane, colliding with a coach carrying 49 people which was travelling in the opposite direction.
A fire broke out immediately after the crash and engulfed both vehicles.
The accident resulted in the deaths of 43 people (41 coach passengers and the two people travelling in the HGV), and caused injuries to 8 others who were able to escape from the coach (the driver and 7 passengers).
The direct cause of the accident was the loss of control of the HGV as it was navigating a tight right bend, causing the vehicle to swerve into the left hand-lane and collide with a coach travelling in the opposite direction.
Consequently, a violent fire broke out immediately after the collision, as the coach was very quickly invaded by toxic black smoke.
Several factors played a role in the heavy death toll of this accident :
- the presence of an additional diesel fuel tank installed on the back of the articulated lorry’s driver cab, that was not in accordance with regulations ;
- the nature of the materials used for the coach’s interior fitting, their fire resistance and the toxicity of the gases emitted by their combustion ;
- the difficulty the passengers faced in operating the smoke extraction devices fitted to the coach ;
- the difficulty the passengers faced when they tried to use the coach’s two access points and emergency exits.
In light of these elements, the BEA-TT has drawn up five recommendations for the attention of the Ministry for an Ecological and Solidary Transition, regarding :
- installation inspections for additional fuel tanks on vehicles ;
- improved fire-resistance of materials used in vehicle construction, and the introduction of new industrial standards regarding the toxicity of gases released by the combustion of these materials ;
- improvements to the opening mechanisms for smoke extraction devices, in order to make them easier to use ;
- the addition of emergency doors at the rear end of such vehicles, or failing this, extending the provisions of Decree no. 2015-1170, issued on 22 September 2015 (pertaining to accessibility in vehicles designated for use in providing inter-urban public transport services) to all buses and coaches, and/or improving industry standards regarding the opening mechanisms of emergency exit windows in order to make them instantly manoeuvrable and easier to use in the event of an emergency evacuation of the vehicle ;
- reinforcement of existing legislation regarding “emergency lighting systems” for coaches, so that safety equipment for emergency evacuations (and emergency lighting used to indicate vehicle evacuation routes) remain visible, especially in cases where the vehicle’s interior has become filled with opaque smoke.
Furthermore, without making a formal recommendation, the BEA-TT invites :
- the roadways authority to consider the advisability of limiting the maximum speed to 50 km/h on this bend ;
- trade union bodies representing HGV drivers to make their members aware of the importance of respecting approved technical rules when installing fuel tanks ;
- the FNTV to supplement its 2016 coach passenger safety awareness brochure, which outlines the safety rules to be complied with on a coach and the instructions for evacuation in case of emergency, giving a description of the procedure to be followed in the event of a fire in the coach’s passenger compartment.