at the trial of the drama of Millas, the testimony of the young survivors
“I was 13 years old (…). In two minutes, I lost my childhood, my adolescence, my friends ”: five young victims testified this Tuesday in Marseille to the heavy consequences of the collision between their school bus and a train in Millas (Pyrénées-Orientales) in 2017.
Six schoolchildren who were returning home aboard this bus were killed on December 14, 2017 and 17 were injured, eight of them very seriously. The driver, Nadine Oliveira, 53, has been on trial since Monday for homicide and unintentional injuries in Marseille, whose court has a specialized center on collective accidents.
I felt the shock when she hit the barriers
« I resent and will resent Nadine Oliveira all my life because for me, it’s her fault, » said a bubbly 17-year-old young woman at the helm, brown hair up in a bun, whose dress color reveals a prosthesis on the right leg. « Everything she sees, I saw too, » said the teenager, who was seated in the front row of the bus, to the right of the driver.
When “we arrive at the crossroads, the driver (…) receives a message. Me, during that time, I saw the light signals (of the level crossing), the barriers lowering, ”continues the young woman, a golden retriever dog, intended to allow her to free her speech, seated at its ratings. “I felt the shock when she hit the barriers, we all went back. We heard the sound of the barrier twisting, ”adds the one who is considered a key witness in the investigation.
When she wakes up on the tracks, she sees her leg « in a terrible state ». She also has a fractured pelvis. When the president of the court points out that this accident « was very difficult »: « And it still is, it will always remain so », adds the teenager, who has undergone multiple leg operations, requiring heavy rehabilitation. , and still suffers from “phantom pains”. “I was 13 at the time and became an adult in two minutes. In two minutes, I lost my childhood, my adolescence, my friends,” she concludes.
I see the train rushing at us, I felt for the first time the fear of dying
Another 17-year-old boy, injured in the right arm in particular, cannot forget the noise of the train horn and suffers from almost daily migraines. « For almost two years, I didn’t want to talk anymore » about the accident, he says. At the time of the shock, he was performing a magic trick on a comrade.
It was the testimonies of the two passengers of the utility vehicle parked on the other side of the level crossing, which he followed on Monday from a special room where the trial is broadcast in Perpignan, which prompted him to come and testify in Marseille. . « Seeing them, I had flashbacks, » he said, although he can « say nothing » about the position of the crossing barriers, a crucial issue in determining the driver’s guilt. Which has always denied that the barriers were closed.
Another victim, who came to read his testimony, has “the memory of the barriers lifted”. Then “I see the train rushing at us, I felt for the first time the fear of dying”. Then it’s « a total black hole, » says the 18-year-old. But today, after having read the expert reports, « I question myself on everything, on the barriers, on my place in the bus », she notes, specifying that she remembered the scene of the accident. in the form of a dream. « This change of version, it upsets me, » she continues.
The forced level crossing barrier?
The technical expertise carried out during the investigation concluded that the driver, who was used to this route but had never been confronted with the passage of a train, forced « the closed half-barrier of the said level crossing while a regional express train was coming”. During the testimonies, the driver remained with her head turned to the side and her gaze lowered, crying and occasionally stroking a black Labrador.
Long green veil covering her hair, another 15-year-old girl is overcome by emotion when talking about a comrade sitting in front of her on the bus, who died in the accident. She had her leg broken during the shock and will see her growth forever thwarted. “We see that the people who were on the bus are no longer there and I am there,” she breathes.