MARCH 21 2012 16:29h

Thousands attend service for crash victims

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LOMMEL, Belgium, March 21 (UPI) -- Thousands of people attended a service in Lommel, Belgium, Wednesday for victims of last week's bus crash involving students returning from a ski trip.

Belgian King Albert II and Queen Paola were among the 5,000 people at the ceremony in Soeverein Arena to honor 14 children and their teacher who were on the ski trip in Switzerland to celebrate the children's graduation from elementary school in June, Flemish public broadcaster VRT reported on its Flandersnew.be Web site.

In all, 28 people died when a bus crashed into a wall in a Swiss tunnel as it was returning the students and chaperons to two Belgian villages. Twenty-two of the victims were children.

Belgian, Flemish and Dutch premiers and a delegation from the Switzerland also attended the service, as did Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Crown Princess Maxima of the Netherlands. Several of the victims were Dutch.

Security was tight at the service, VRT said. The families chose a public service but asked that no photographs be taken. People attempting to photograph the proceedings could face severe punishment.

Most of the businesses in Lommel were closed and white ribbons lined the road to the arena.

A similar ceremony for the victims from Heverlee is scheduled Thursday.