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Italian Investigators Search For Cause Of Deadly Tour Bus Crash

Investigators in southern Italy are examining the scene a day after a bus carrying nearly 50 people plummeted off a highway and into a ravine east of Naples. Italian news agencies say at least 38 people died Sunday night after the bus crashed through a guardrail and fell nearly 100 feet to the rough terrain below.

The crash injured at least 10 people, including people who were in cars the bus hit before it left the roadway. Several children are believed to be among the wounded.

"The group was returning from a weekend excursion to the local Telese thermal baths and the popular pilgrimage destination of Pietralcina, home town of the Italian saint Padre Pio," reports the Italian news agency ANSA.

"The head of the local fire brigade division, Alessio Barbarulo, said barriers on bridges would normally prevent such accidents but "evidently it seems the impact was so strong that even the barrier gave way," the BBC reports.

For our Newscast unit, NPR'S Sylvia Poggioli reports:

"Rescuers used electric saws to cut through twisted metal to extract survivors and recover the bodies of the dead.

"The accident took place near Avellino, east of Naples. Local police told state radio that the driver was among the dead.

"Witnesses told reporters the bus had been traveling at normal speed. An investigation into the cause of the crash is underway."

A passenger who survived the crash has suggested that a burst tire may have contributed to the accident, according to Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

But investigators told ANSA on Monday that parts of the bus's transmission were found more than a kilometer from the scene of the crash, leading investigators to believe the vehicle may have had severe mechanical problems. The BBC reports that the bus had last been inspected in March.

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