French coach crash driver convicted

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A coach driver from Tamworth who crashed his coach in France while carrying school children and teachers from the West Midlands has been found guilty of manslaughter.

Derek Thompson, was driving the coach carrying a group from Alvechurch School, near Birmingham, on a nine-day holiday organised by tour operator Interschool Travel Limited, trading as Interski, as well as several ski-instructors on their return from a skiing trip to Valle d’Aosta in Italy, in the Alps. The coach left the A26 road and went down the adjacent grass verge, before it rolled over onto its side near Chalons-en-Champagne, 90 miles east of Paris on February 19, 2012.

One teacher was killed in the crash and many passengers were seriously injured in the incident. Derek has been given a six-month sentence suspended for five years.

He had been driving a coach for Tamworth-based Solus, who according to the Tamworth Herald, at the time confirmed Derek had been employed with the company for a number of years.

At the time of the crash, a Solus spokesman said they were saddened by the tragic coach accident and would be assisting authorities with their investigations.

Specialist international personal injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, representing 25 passengers injured in the incident, said this week that the conclusion of the criminal trial in Chalons-en-Champagne was an important step forward for those affected.

Clive Garner, Head of International Personal Injury at Irwin Mitchell, and the Solicitor leading the team representing the passengers, said: “After considering all the evidence in this case, the Court has concluded that Mr Thompson is guilty of manslaughter following this fatal coach crash.

“Many of our clients have been left with serious and life-changing injuries as a result of the coach crash on February 19, 2012. Some of them will never fully recover. It is a relief to many of them to know that the criminal proceedings have been concluded and they are one important step closer to knowing exactly what caused the crash.

“While the court gave judgment upon Mr Thompson today, their full findings and the reasons behind the conviction have not been revealed. A full written judgment setting out the court’s detailed reasoning will follow. This will explain why the court convicted Derek Thompson of manslaughter and should provide the answers that our clients both want and deserve.”