Wreckage from fatal France coach crash released

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Lawyers representing 21 Alvechurch Middle School children and four adults seriously injured in a coach crash in France have welcomed the release of the wreckage.

A teacher was killed in the crash when the coach came off the road near Chalons-en-Champagne, 90 miles east of Paris, on February 19, 2012.

UK proceedings for compensation were put on hold following a Birmingham High Court decision after an application by the defendant tour operator, Interschool Travel Limited (trading as ‘Interski’). The company which organised the school trip said the civil claims for compensation should not be progressed through the English courts until the coach company’s insurers had access to the coach to carry out an inspection of it. Following repeated request, the French authorities have now agreed to release the coach wreckage for inspection.

Clive Garner, of Irwin Mitchell, who represents the passengers, said: “The English coach driver has been charged with involuntary manslaughter by the authorities in France and a criminal trial there is expected early next year. Despite this, the civil proceedings in England have unfortunately been placed on hold as the coach company’s insurer considered that it could not conclude its investigations into the cause of the accident without access to the coach.

“We are concerned that while the driver of the coach has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, we and the families we represent still do not know exactly what caused the accident. It is crucial that we determine why this coach left the road, first and foremost so that justice can be done, but also so that lessons are learnt to reduce the risk of a similar tragedy occurring in the future.

“We have repeatedly called for improved coach safety measures including driver training, monitoring and supervision to reduce the risk of coach crashes occurring. Driver fatigue and the adequacy of driver rest periods are also matters of concern which often feature as a contributory factor in coach crashes and more needs to be done to provide greater protection to bus and coach passengers. While the cause of this tragic accident is yet to be determined, there are strong suspicions that driver fatigue was a causative factor.”