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Major bus crashes in Sweden 1997–2007 – KAMEDO-report 94

The Kamedo observer reports study the medical, psychological, organisational and social aspects of disasters. This report summarizes experiences from some typical major bus crashes. The aim of the report is to illustrate the problems that may be encountered in the rescue work, and how the casualties can be taken care of in the best possible way.


Major bus crashes with a large number of casualties create a challenge for the emergency services. During the period 1997–2007 ten crashes of this kind occurred in Sweden, of which the characteristics of six typical cases are described in detail in this report. In most cases the bus also overturned, which hampered the rescue effort. The aim of the report is to illustrate the problems that may be encountered in the rescue work, and how the casual-ties can be taken care of in the best possible way.

There are many factors contributing to the crashes, for example the con-struction of the vehicle, where the wind sensitivity of high-built buses is a factor that has not attracted great attention previously. In some cases, the crashes were caused by the driver not adapting the speed of the vehicle to slippery road conditions. In one case, a front wheel puncture on an ap-proaching timber truck was the direct cause of a head-on collision with a bus with school children. In another case, the driver sustained an attack of sudden unconsciousness. The lack of side and central barriers on the road has in most cases led to more serious consequences than would otherwise have been the case.

The crashes described here occurred during the period between October and April, which means that those injured were exposed to cold and damp conditions which consequently added a hypothermia problem to the inci-dent.

In Sweden, there is a high level of preparedness for traffic incidents. The rescue work in these cases did not suffer from any lack of number of people engaged in the rescue work, because they happened during daytime, when the emergency resources were optimal. The rescue operation, however, took rather a long time which made it easier to build up adequate resources also in rural areas. On the other hand, it was technically difficult to access all of the injured, who in the worst cases were trapped underneath the bus. As regards the buses that overturned, the severe lack of suitable tactics, technology and equipment hampered effective work.

To improve the rescue process the Centre for Research and Development in Disaster Medicine at Umeå University in Umeå has together with the Na-tional Rescue Services Agency School at Sandö, developed a training pro-gramme for how to run an efficient rescue operation after these types of bus crashes. A training of instructors has been undertaken jointly with support from the National Board of Health and Welfare and the then National Res-cue Services Agency since 2007.

Information is today disseminated rapidly through different media chan-nels, which is positive in many respects. Radio, TV, internet and newspapers have also been able to help provide medical services and the public with information about the crashes. On the other hand, this can also lead to problems, when the media are allowed direct access to the incident site and hospitals, and are able to film and interview the injured passengers and their relatives in a their vulnerable position.

In 1988 a bus carrying Swedish schoolchildren crashed in a tunnel in Måbödalen in Norway. In that incident many children and adults were killed, and the need for psychosocial support was considerable, for both those directly affected and their relatives, but also for, for example, those school friends who were not themselves present at the incident. Lessons learned from this crash form the basis for the crisis support work currently pursued after similar incidents and are described in Appendix 2.

Read the full Summary
Major Bus Crashes in Sweden 1997–2007

Year: 2011
Article number: 2011-11-19
Format: POD
Pages: 74
Language: Engelska
Price (VAT included): 90 kr


Susannah Sigurdsson
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