BERLIN – Prosecutors on Monday opened an investigation of a German woman whose car hit a Polish tourist bus, triggering a crash that left 13 people dead and another 38 injured.
Potsdam prosecutor's spokesman Ralf Roggenbuck told The Associated Press that his office was investigating the 37-year-old driver of the red Mercedes that is believed to have caused Sunday's crash on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter.
"We assume that some kind of driver error was the cause for the crash," he said.
The name of the Berlin woman who drove the car was not released.
Both the Mercedes and the bus have been impounded by authorities who were examining them Monday for evidence, while both the passengers of the Mercedes have given witness statements, Roggenbuck said. The driver suffered serious injuries in the crash and has not yet been interviewed.
"With today's technology we will be able to determine exactly how the accident occurred," Roggenbuck said, adding that the investigation would probably last at least two weeks.
The tour bus was on its way back to Poland from Spain when it crashed on a highway outside Berlin Sunday. Police said the Mercedes hit the bus as the car merged onto the highway, causing the bus to hit a bridge abutment.
"Our bus was going straight on the highway and then from around a curve a red car came suddenly," tour organizer Ewa Kramek told TVN24 news in an interview from her hospital room where she was treated for a broken elbow. "Our driver was trying to avoid it, to escape to the left side. We were under an overpass, and then it hit hard on the left side."
About 120 relatives of the victims arrived in the town of Koenigs Wusterhausen outside Berlin early Monday to try to get more information about their loved ones.
"Some of them have only found out here that their relatives are seriously injured or dead," local police spokesman Jens Quitschke told Associated Press Television News.
"We have still not been able to identify all of the killed, and hope to speed up the identification with help from the relatives."
Bettina Schramm, a police spokeswoman, said 18 people suffered serious injuries in the Sunday crash and a further 20 lighter wounds.
They were taken to more than a dozen hospitals from Berlin to Leipzig for treatment. Six people were treated and released early Monday and returned home on a bus organized by the Polish embassy, Schramm said.
She said she could not comment on the condition of those in the hospitals.
Ryszard Szklany, Poland's deputy consul in Berlin, said on Poland's TVN24 that the relatives were going to the various hospitals to help identify the bodies.
"In some cases identification of bodies is difficult," Szklany said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel offered her condolences after the crash, and pledged that Germany would do whatever it can to help those who were injured.
Flags were ordered lowered to half staff at government buildings in Brandenburg state, where the crash happened, in memory of the victims.
Associated Press Writer Monika Scislowska contributed to this report from Warsaw, Poland.