Austrian minibus driver charged with causing death by negligence

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A minibus driver alleged to have caused the Austrian bus crash in which five Britons were killed faces charges of causing death by negligence, the Austrian authorities said yesterday.

A minibus driver alleged to have caused the Austrian bus crash in which five Britons were killed faces charges of causing death by negligence, the Austrian authorities said yesterday.

The Britons who died were: David Hamilton, 33, from Bournemouth, Dorset; Marian Ashby, 80, and Robert Ashby, 60, from Hatfield, Hertfordshire; Claire Patel, 39, from Amersham, Buckinghamshire; and Rebecca Earland, 16, from Tonbridge in Kent. They were among 42 British tourists whose tour bus plunged off a mountain road and fell 60 metres down a slope.

The accident happened on Tuesday near the town of Hallein, close to Salzburg. The Hallein police spokesman, Hubert Kreiseder, speaking through a translator, told the press conference: "A charge is being brought against the driver of the minibus of causing death by negligence."

A police report into the crash will be passed to the public prosecutor's office, which will decide whether this charge - or a more serious charge - will be brought. Among those still recovering in hospital yesterday was Dave Patel, a father of three, whose wife Claire died. She was crushed and died from multiple injuries.

Police said the minibus overtook the bus on a blind corner and then shunted it off the road as the driver tried to avoid an oncoming car. A total of 49 people were on board the bus - 42 Britons, three Germans, two Russians, an Australian tour guide and an Austrian driver. The tourist group was returning from a visit to a salt mine at Berchtesgaden, where Adolf Hitler had his alpine retreat.

Drug and alcohol tests carried out on all three drivers involved were negative.

While a total of 17 passengers are still recovering in hospitals, other survivors joined local people for a candlelit memorial service in the nearby town of Fuschl last night.

Lynsey Devon, from Inghams, the travel company that organised the tour, said that none of the survivors had indicated that they wished to return to the UK yet. A team from the company has travelled to Salzburg and a team of counsellors has also flown to Austria to assist those bereaved and suffering from shock.

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