British Coach Driver Found Guilty Of Manslaughter After Trial In France

Trial Of British Driver Concludes In France Following Fatal Crash Of West Midlands School Coach


The British driver of a coach which crashed in France while carrying dozens of school children and teachers from the West Midlands has been found guilty today (25 March 2015) of manslaughter.

Derek Thompson, 49, was driving the coach carrying children and teachers from Alvechurch School, near Birmingham, as well as several ski-instructors on their return from a skiing trip to the Alps. The coach left the road near Chalons-en-Champagne, 90 miles east of Paris on 19 February 2012. One teacher was killed in the crash and many passengers including children and ski instructors were seriously injured in the incident.

Mr Thompson has been given a six month sentence suspended for five years. .

Specialist international personal injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, representing 25 passengers injured in the incident, say conclusion of the criminal trial in Chalons-en-Champagne is an important step forward for those affected.

Expert Opinion
“After considering all the evidence in this case, the Court has concluded that Mr Thompson is guilty of manslaughter following this fatal coach crash.

“Many of our clients have been left with serious and life-changing injuries as a result of the coach crash on 19th February 2012. Some of them will never fully recover. It is a relief to many of them to know that the criminal proceedings have been concluded and they are one important step closer to knowing exactly what caused the crash.

“While the Court gave judgment upon Mr Thompson today, their full findings and the reasons behind the conviction have not been revealed. A full written judgment setting out the Court’s detailed reasoning will follow. This will explain why the Court convicted Derek Thompson of Manslaughter and should provide the answers that our clients both want and deserve.

"We will continue to fight for the rights of our clients and invite the tour company, Interski to admit liability and bring their legal battle to a close. To date, Interski have continued to deny liability on the basis that Mr Thompson was not at fault. This view is no longer tenable. We are anxious that liability is now admitted without further delay so that our clients can begin to move on with their lives.”
Clive Garner, Partner

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell also confirmed that despite the denials of liability they had successfully secured settlements for a number of passengers injured in the incident along with vital interim payments of compensation for a number of others.

Cheryl Palmer Hughes, a specialist International Serious Injury Lawyer at Irwin Mitchell also working on the case added: “Many of our clients are still suffering from serious injuries and still face a long battle to come to terms with their injuries and get their lives on track.

“We have already been able to resolve a number of cases where our clients have been less severely injured by negotiating settlements and have accessed interim payments of compensation for a number of others. These payments have provided funds to pay for much needed therapies, aids, appliances, adaptions to housing and to cover other expenses and losses which have been incurred.”

Steve Ratheram, 53, suffered devastating injuries in the coach crash and was rushed to a local hospital for treatment for injuries, including spinal fractures, a fractured sternum and broken ribs.

The former ski instructor, from Yardley Wood, said: “My initial reaction is that while I welcome the conviction, the sentence seems very light bearing in mind the seriousness of what happened. I also feel for Pete Rippington’s wife and daughter. Pete lost his life in the crash. This was supposed to be his last skiing trip and he was due to retire shortly. They were going to have the rest of their lives together, but this has been taken away from them. It’s not really justice although we will have to wait for the full judgement from the Court. We all want to know what happened to cause the crash.

“Since the crash I’ve been back to hospital on countless occasions for further treatment and have had to get used to living with my injuries on a daily basis.”