Investigation Into French Alps Crash Welcomed As Tragedy Stirs Painful Memories

Legal Experts And Passengers Injured In Similar Coach Crash Last Year Reveal Concerns Following Latest Tragedy

19.04.2013

By Rob Dixon

Lawyers and one of the injured victims they represent following another fatal coach crash in France last year have revealed their concerns after a similar fatal incident in the Alps earlier this week. They have also outlined their hopes that the investigation will give survivors and the family of the deceased driver answers as to why this tragedy occurred.

The British driver of the Classic Coach vehicle operated by TGM was killed in the incident close to Alpe d’Huez on Tuesday (April 16th), which happened during its journey to transport more than 50 employees of the ski school Skibound back to Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle.

International serious injury experts at Irwin Mitchell have serious concerns over the similarities between this incident and another crash near Chalons-en-Champagne in northern France in February 2012. The team represent more than 20 staff and pupils from Alvechurch School and two ski instructors seriously injured when the coach they were travelling on during their return trip from a skiing holiday left the road and overturned.

Having investigated the cause of the crash, the English coach driver has been charged by the French authorities with involuntary manslaughter. A trial is expected to take place later this year.

Now, Irwin Mitchell and passengers injured in the Alvechurch crash are calling on authorities to work quickly and to ensure that lessons are earned from this latest incident.

Clive Garner, Head of the Travel Law Team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “While very little is known for certain about the circumstances surrounding this latest tragic coach crash, it is alarming to see another fatal coach crash involving Britons in France in just 14 months.

“Through our work for victims and their families, we have investigated the cause of more than 20 serious bus and coach crashes in the UK, Europe and elsewhere in recent years. We have seen all too often how an incident of this kind can have a huge and long lasting impact upon survivors and the families of those who have had their lives cut short.

“Time and time again we have called for improved coach safety measures to reduce the risk of incidents of this kind. These steps include coaches are maintained to the highest possible standards and all of their components not only ensuring drivers are fully checked and rigorously tested. Among other steps we have also called for the use of the safest possible routes and the avoidance of high risk routes.

“More clearly needs to be done to protect coach passengers across the globe and we hope that the investigation into this incident will provide the answers all of those affected will want and that this in turn leads to justice being done. We also hope that any lessons that can be learned about the cause or causes of this incident will lead to positive and long awaited improvements in coach safety.”

Steve Ratheram, 52, from Yardley Wood in Birmingham was one of the ski instructors injured in the Alvechurch School crash in February 2012. He suffered serious injuries including spinal fractures, broken ribs and shoulder injuries.

He said: “When I saw reports of this incident, my own experiences all came flooding back to me and it was very emotional. I simply cannot believe that, essentially, the same thing has happened again.

“The crash last year continues to have a huge impact on my life and my family, as I continue to get treatment for my injuries and have been told I’m not likely to recover fully.

“We’re still waiting for the outcome of the full investigation into the crash last year, so I know how desperate those involved in this latest incident will already be to get help. My heart goes out to all of those affected and I hope that authorities can work quickly to determine what can be done to ensure that improvements can be made to coach safety. Clearly something must be done.”

Commenting on the investigation process, Clive added: “The French police and the authorities there normally undertake a thorough and very careful investigation into incidents like this.

"The investigation is already underway and at some point during the next few weeks a decision will be made as to whether any criminal charges will be brought arising from the incident",

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