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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Games finale cut after bus deaths
Firefighters extracting bodies from the bus
It is unclear how the accident occurred
The closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Athens has been cut after at least seven students travelling to watch it died in a road accident.

Organisers said the artistic and entertainment part of the ceremony had been cancelled as a sign of respect.

A bus carrying 37 teenagers and four teachers from Farkadona, near Trikala, is reported to have collided with a lorry near the town of Kamena Vourla.

Investigators are still unsure how the crash happened.

"The Athens Olympics Organising Committee [ATHOC] has decided to cancel the closing ceremony of the 12th Athens Paralympics as initially planned and scheduled because of the tragic accident that cost the life of pupils," ATHOC said in a statement.

"The artistic and entertainment part of the ceremony will not take place," the statement added.

Tuesday's closing ceremony will now only consist of the athletes' entry into the main Olympic stadium, the closing speech by the president of the International Paralympic Committee, the handover of the Paralympics flag and the extinction of the Paralympic flame.

A minute's silence will be held for the victims at Paralympic venues.

The head teacher at Farkadona high school, Petros Hahopoulos, said three busloads of students left the town early on Monday to drive south to Athens to watch some of the Paralympics events.

Deputy Greek fire chief Andreas Kois said: "The situation is tragic. The crash with the truck overturned the bus. Exactly how it happened we do not know."

International Paralympic Committee spokeswoman Miriam Wilkens said: "School children have been big supporters of all Paralympic athletes and now it is time for us to offer our support to the friends and families of those involved in the accident."

Paralympic Games 2004



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