French Alps coach crash: Hero British driver praised for saving the lives of over 50 passengers
Maurice Wrightson drove into rocks and trees to avoid plunging over precipice
A coach driver who drove into rocks and trees to avoid plunging over a precipice has been hailed a hero for saving the lives of more than 50 passengers.
The driver, named as Maurice Wrightson, was killed when the bus exploded after crashing through trees and slamming into a cliff-face.
Frédéric Cuvillier, the French Transport minister, visited the scene of the tragedy and praised the courage of the driver whom he said had “saved many lives”.
Initial investigations indicated that the driver shouted a warning to passengers that the brakes had failed, and then steered deliberately into trees and rocks in an attempt to slow the coach down rather than risk careering into a ravine.
The accident, on Tuesday afternoon, took place as the vehicle approached the last of 21 hairpin bends on the notorious mountain road leading down from the Alpe d'Huez ski resort.
“The driver showed remarkable courage. The witnesses all agree that his acts and his attitude meant a much heavier loss of life was avoided,” said Mr Cuvillier.
Marcus Beauchamp, whose brother Matthew was one of the passengers on the coach, said: “The driver saved everyone's life by steering into the tree rather than go over the edge. He was a hero.”
Some of the passengers were thrown clear as the vehicle crashed, and some are thought to have jumped before the vehicle, and the trailer it was pulling, came to a halt, but four people were seriously hurt and had to be dragged out of the burning coach. One of the most seriously injured was a 19-year-old woman who suffered 80 per cent burns.
Jean-Yves Coquillat, the Grenoble public prosecutor, told journalists that brake failure was a “very probable” factor in the accident.
Mr Wrightson, from Ashington, Northumberland, was at the controls of the Classic Coaches vehicle operated by TGM and was one of two drivers board, along with 51 passengers. He is thought to have been aged 63.
Heath Williams, the managing director, described the crash as it as a tragic accident and was reported as saying: “A number of passengers have sustained injuries and our thoughts are with them as they recover.
”Early indications are that our driver tried to take evasive action and that he alerted passengers. We pay tribute to him for his efforts, and also to our relief driver who helped people to leave the vehicle.“
The passengers included ski resort workers with Brighton-based SkiBound who were leaving at the end of the season.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: ”Our thoughts are with those involved in the coach crash in Isere which has resulted in the death of a British National. We are providing consular support.
“We thank the French authorities, both local and national, and the emergency services for their efforts to help those affected.”
- 1 Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?
- 4 Matthew Miller: American sentenced to hard labour in North Korea 'wanted to be Snowden II'
- 5 Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
Isis in Syria: 60,000 Kurds flee terror in new exodus
Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
4Chan naked photos leak: Celebrity Twitter reactions to the mass breach of privacy
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...
£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...
£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...
£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...