Polish pilgrims injured in Croatia bus crash to return home

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish authorities were working Monday to repatriate injured passengers aboard a bus that crashed on the weekend in Croatia, killing 12 people as it ferried Polish pilgrims to a popular Catholic shrine.

The bus with 44 passengers aboard veered off a motorway north of Zagreb in the early hours of Saturday. The accident left 32 passengers injured, some of whom are in critical or serious condition.

An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the crash. The driver was among those killed according to a Croatian official quoted by Polish broadcaster TVN24. Some early reports suggested the driver that Polish media said was 72 might have fallen asleep at the wheel, but this hasn’t been confirmed.

Polish police officers, who were in Croatia already to help with the large numbers of Polish tourists visiting Croatia’s popular Adriatic coast, were redeployed to support Croatian emergency workers helping the injured.

The bus was taking pilgrims to the Catholic shrine in Medjugorje, a town in southern Bosnia. The shrine is Europe’s third-most popular pilgrimage destination after Lourdes and Fatima.

Pope Francis expressed his sorrow on Sunday and offered prayers for the victims.

Poland’s state-run news agency said four severely injured victims were airlifted to Warsaw over the weekend for specialist care. Polish Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska said Monday authorities aim to bring more people back home this week.

A Health Ministry spokesman, Wojciech Andrusiewicz, said three of the injured were due to be brought home either Tuesday or Wednesday and that another 10 people with injuries of various degrees of severity would be airlifted later.

Currently, 28 people remain hospitalized in Croatia, including 17 severely injured and two in critical condition, according to the Polish health ministry.

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