LOMMEL, Belgium, March 21 Belgian and Dutch
royals and prime ministers joined more than 5,000 people on
Wednesday honouring the 15 children and two staff from a single
Belgian school killed in a bus crash in Switzerland last week.
White ribbons were tied around trees leading to the sports
arena where the sombre televised ceremony in the Belgian town of
Lommel took place.
Soldiers first carried in a brown coffin containing the body
of 53-year-old teacher Raymond Theunis. Other military
pallbearers then brought in white coffins with the remains of
the 11- and 12-year-olds, followed in procession by their
The coffins were laid in a semi-circle beneath photographs
and handprints of the victims killed on their return from a
Photos of a 15th child and a female staff member also hung
in the hall. Their families chose to hold private funerals.
Parents, siblings and the son of the teacher read eulogies
to their lost relatives.
"The last days of your life were like a party ... You had
the time of your life ... You stayed behind in the mountains.
Hopefully you are happy there," one father said.
The Belgian bus crashed into a tunnel wall in Switzerland on
Tuesday last week, killing 22 children and six adults on their
return from a ski trip for two Belgian schools.
A ceremony was planned on Thursday for seven children from
the other school in the town of Heverlee, some 25 kilometres (15
miles) east of Belgian capital Brussels.
Belgian King Albert II and Dutch Crown Prince
Willem-Alexander and their wives, as well as Belgian Prime
Minister Elio Di Rupo and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte were
present to pay their respects.
Six Dutch children were killed in the crash and four more
injured. Lommel is right on the Dutch border. Another of the
victims was of British and Belgian descent.
(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop)