Briton dies in school bus crash


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The Independent Online

A coach carrying 29 schoolchildren crashed in northern France today leaving one adult male dead and five others seriously injured, according to the ski company that organised the trip.

The pupils, from Alvechurch School in Worcestershire, were returning to the UK from the Aosta Valley, Italy, when the coach left the motorway and came to rest at the bottom of an embankment.

Twenty-one adults were also involved in the bus crash near the city of Reims in the Champagne-Ardenne region in the early hours of this morning, Interski Snowsport School said.

The ski company said 22 people were also taken to hospital with minor injuries following the accident at 2.30am.

No details of what is thought to have caused the crash were given, but it said the coach had two drivers on board, along with six Interski instructors and 13 adults belonging to the school party.

Those who escaped uninjured are being cared for at a sports complex in the region.

They are receiving attention from the French Red Cross, who are also providing psychological support.

The accident happened on the A26 at Chalons-en-Champagne.

Images of the coach on its side and without its front window were shown on news channels.

The bus was owned by Solus Coaches, which is based in Tamworth, Staffordshire.

A spokeswoman for Alvechurch School said: "There is no further information at this stage.

"We are liaising with the police and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office."

Interski said a rescue vehicle has been dispatched from the UK to bring those fit to travel home.

The company, which is based in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, says on its website that it has been organising ski trips for school parties for more than 27 years.

Alvechurch School is a Church of England Middle School in the village of Alvechurch, which caters for pupils aged between nine and 13.

The FCO said the British Ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, would be visiting the crash site today.

One of its consular teams was also sent to the scene to provide assistance to those affected.

Initial tests on the driver, who received minor injuries, showed he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to the BBC.

Local police are said to be investigating whether he might have fallen asleep at the wheel.

The Foreign Office (FCO) said it is providing consular assistance to those affected and has set up a helpline to call on 0207 008 1500.