Police confirmed that the 18 missing persons from the tour bus had in fact died when the bus burst into flames Monday, July 3, at 7 a.m. local time (1 a.m. EST). The other 30 survivors are still being treated at a nearby hospital.
The incident took place outside the city of Münchberg in Bavaria.
Merkel addressed the crash at a press meeting Monday, expressing sympathy. “We know that there is a great number of casualties, and also a great number of wounded,” she said as she addressed the crowd of reporters. “Our thoughts, in these hours, are with the families of the victims and we heartily wish all those who were injured a speedy recovery.”
She also thanked and praised the first responders who rescued the victims.
The tour bus was engulfed in a blaze shortly after colliding with a semi-truck on the A9 highway, with the semi-truck also catching fire. The truck driver escaped the vehicle safely.
Police are still not sure what caused the crash, or why the bus was engulfed in flames so quickly. The flames were so intense that only the reinforced steel frame of the bus was left afterward.
According to BBC News, the tour bus was filled with people ages 41 to 81 on their way to Lake Garda in Italy for a vacation.
Hundreds of emergency responders were called to the scene, along with several evacuation helicopters to transport the injured passengers.