The bus, which was taking a group to Stockholm to see musical Mamma Mia, ran off the E18/E20 highway just before midday and turned onto its roof. The accident happened by a parking spot at Högsjö, about 10 km from Arboga.
“We don’t yet know what caused this terrible accident,” said Jan-Erik Kjellberg, head of the Swedish Bus Industry Federation.
“An accident investigation will now be started to find out what happened.”
The trip had been arranged by Skövde-based company Forellenresor, which reported that there were 51 people on the bus when it overturned. The passengers onboard were from the Skövde, Falköping, Gullspång and Mariestad areas. The company says that the bus was a Volvo built in 2003 and all seats were equipped with belts.
According to one witness, the bus veered towards the verge before sliding down the embankment. There were no initial reports that the bus skidded, something that police says is supported by the tracks left by the bus.
“We slid off the road and somehow turned over – I didn’t have time to figure out what was going on, but it was worst at the back of the bus,” said one passenger to Swedish Radio.
“The emergency services pulled us out of the windows. People in the bus were trapped under me, under the luggage racks and so on. It was lucky that I had my seatbelt on, as did my wife,” he added.
Over 40 passengers have been taken to hospital. Some 14 people were taken to Örebro, where 4 were said to have sustained serious injuries. Others were taken to other hospitals and medical centres in the region.
Swedish prime minister Göran Persson said it was an “awful accident.”
“We’re all dismayed by this tragedy and are naturally following the rescue operation and the health service’s work very closely,” he said in a written statement.
“I also want to express my sympathy to those affected and their families.”
The producers of Mamma Mia said the evening’s production would not be cancelled.
“Today’s accident is very tragic, but we will be performing this evening,” said Görel Hanser, CEO of production company Briggen.
Skövde council has set up a telephone hotline for concerned families. Ten social workers with experience of handling crises will be available. Mariestad council has set up a similar phone line, but says the number is likely to change, and advises people to consult their homepage for the latest information.
Skövde hotline: 0500 498 344
Mariestad hotline: 070 561 73 33