Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 08:22 UK

Ecuador crash survivors 'coping'

Clockwise, from top left: Indira Swann, Lizzie Pincock, Rebecca Logie, Emily Sadler and Sarah Howard
The five Britons killed were on a gap-year trip

Eight survivors of a bus crash in Ecuador say they have coped with the ordeal by sticking together.

They were speaking at a press conference in the capital Quito, where several looked distressed, according to BBC correspondent Andy Gallagher.

Five young Britons died in the crash, which occurred when their bus collided with a lorry, also injuring 15 others.

According to the British consul, those involved in the crash would begin to return to London on Tuesday via Madrid.

All the survivors have now spoken with their parents, and said they are looking forward to going home.

'Big bang'

They said at the time of the crash most passengers on the bus were sleeping, while some were chatting or watching a movie.

One told the BBC: "I was asleep. I remember a big bang and the whole bus shook, and everything just stopped."

Greg and Louise Swann read out an e-mail from Indira

Survivor Sarah Martin said she hoped the loss of life would not discourage young people from taking a break before university to see more of the world.

"I think a year out has a huge amount of benefits, and I think a tragic accident shouldn't be stopping people from travelling," she told the news conference.

Another, Richard Winter, said that although the group had not known each other for long, the girls who died had made a big impression.

"We miss them, loads. We were only with them for two weeks but we were really close."

Parent's tributes

The parents of those who died have paid tribute to their daughters.

Emily Sadler, 19, of Herts, was described as "fun-loving and popular," while the parents of Indira Swann, from Berks, said their 18-year-old "filled the room with warmth".

The mother of Lizzie Pincock, 19, of Somerset, said she had "great zest for life" but "more importantly, she was my little girl".

The father of Rebecca Logie, 19, of Lancs, said she was a "popular" girl who "lived life to the full".

Travel guide Sarah Howard, 26, from Cheshire, also died in the crash on Saturday.

Her parents said the trip was due to be her last before she started work in September and described their daughter as a "beautiful, bubbly, intelligent" person.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband have offered their sympathy to the families of those killed.

'Sand lorry'

The group was almost three weeks into a 15-week trip - an Inca and Amazon adventure with language tuition and work on a series of volunteer projects.

Of those injured, 12 Britons, a French national and two Ecuadorians suffered whiplash, minor facial and leg injuries.

The group had been heading from Quito to the coast when the crash happened at 1930 local time on Saturday (0130 BST Sunday) in Sancan, on the road between Manta and Jipijapa.

Map of crash location

Ecuadorian authorities have begun an investigation into the cause.

Ecuadorian police said the driver of a lorry carrying a load of sand had crashed into the bus.

They recovered the lorry and its licence plate but it is thought the lorry driver fled the scene.

The holiday was organised by the Warwick-based tour company VentureCo, which specialises in gap-year trips.

Its director, Mark Davison, said: "I think it was just an unfortunate combination of circumstances. It's a tragic accident."

And he said the company had an "unblemished record" of operating in the area since 1999.

Tributes to Ecuador crash victim
14 Apr 08 |  Somerset
Country profile: Ecuador
01 Mar 08 |  Country profiles

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