Experts continued investigations on Saturday (24 October) at the site of the crash between a bus and a truck where at least 43 were killed near Puisseguin in France, as a convoy took away the first bodies of the victims. The bus and the truck collided early on Friday (23 October) near a forested bend on a two-lane road cut into a hillside about 35 miles east of Bordeaux.

Most of the victims were elderly day-trippers who were killed in a blaze that engulfed both vehicles, in France's worst road crash in more than 30 years. Two people, including a young boy, died in the truck. Experts were carrying out investigations in a bid to identify the bodies on Saturday.

"I have no new elements to add to yesterday. All I can say is that the process has started, that our projections -- based on the delay and chronology -- will most certainly be respected which means that recovery will probably take another three good days, that the identification process will be done following analysis from what we collect and that we will probably be able to return the bodies to the families within three weeks. I have no more information than that," said Patrick Touron, deputy head of the criminal research division of France's Gendarmerie.

He said that a complete list of names of the victims was still unknown. "For the moment I have no names. All I have are charred bodies with no names on them. We are using identifying codes. All the identifying codes will then have to be formally identified, we will 're-identify' them and, following the lead of the prosecutor's office we will then be able to return the bodies so that the families may then be able to mourn."

Touron added that black boxes were recovered at the site and would be analysed to provide more information about the crash. "The IT people, or rather the electronics people, whom we brought over here, are in the process of analysing the black boxes to see if there is any information that can be extracted from them. So there are a number of elements, and we need the right level of expertise. So our experts will not look at these black boxes here, in the field, but will direct them towards the correct experts so as to extract information and so the prosecutor can then get hold of the right expert with proper information. These black boxes are seriously damaged."

It was the worst road accident in France since 53 people, mostly children, died in a bus crash in Burgundy in July 1982, according to the independent road safety organisation Association Prevention Routiere.

Stricter road regulation and lower speed limits followed, and traffic deaths in France have fallen steeply since. According to official statistics, more than 16,000 people were dying on the roads every year in the early 1970s. In recent years the annual death toll has dropped below 4,000.