Coach crash in northern France

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Coach driver due to face French court after man dies in incident in Rheims area of France

A coach carrying a Worcestershire school party back from a skiing trip crashed in northern France early on Sunday morning, killing a teacher and injuring more than 20 people.

Peter Rippington, 59, who taught at Alvechurch School, died in the crash near Chalons-en-Champagne, and on Monday morning, as CBW went to press, 10 people were still in hospital.

Police are investigating whether the coach driver, who suffered minor injuries, fell asleep at the wheel. It is understood the driver tested negative for alcohol and drugs and the coach’s tachograph reportedly showed nothing unusual.

He was being held by police in Chalons-en-Champagne and was expected to be placed under formal investigation for involuntarily causing death and injury.

The vehicle involved, a 61-plate Plaxton Volvo, was owned by Solus Coaches, based in Tamworth, Staffordshire, which was operating under contract to Mansfield-based tour operator Interski.

A statement posted on Solus Coaches’ website on Sunday read: “We are extremely saddened to learn of the tragic coach accident involving one of our vehicles in the Rheims area of Northern France at approximately 0230hrs GMT this morning. Our thoughts are with the bereaved to whom we offer our sincere condolences. We are also obviously highly concerned for the welfare of the injured passengers and all others involved in this incident.

“It will be appreciated we cannot comment further at this stage but would reassure we are liaising closely with the tour operator involved, Interski, in addition to making every effort to assist the foreign and other authorities.”

There were two coaches in the party and most of the children have now arrived back in Worcestershire.

There had been 20 adults – including two drivers and six ski instructors – and 29 schoolchildren on board the crashed coach.

The school party had been on a skiing trip to Val d’Aosta in Italy and was returning when the coach went down an embankment on the A26 motorway.

An Interski statement read: “We also extend our sympathy to the four seriously injured passengers, to 22 passengers with minor injuries and to all others involved in this tragic incident.”

The Foreign Office said it was working with French authorities and was assisting the passengers involved and their relatives.