Three people who work for the Brighton company SkiBound are being treated in hospital for serious injuries after a coach crash in France yesterday (Tuesday 16 April).
The 64-year-old coach driver – one of two drivers on board – died after the crash on a steep mountain road.
The coach burst into flames after the crash in Alpe d’Huez, 40 miles from Grenoble, in what the French authorities suggested was an accident that may have been down to brake failure.
The Brighton company said: “SkiBound has been informed that one person has died in the accident which happened earlier today in Alpe d’Huez.
“Regrettably this was one of the two British drivers taking the group of SkiBound staff back to the UK at the end of the season.
“Twenty nine passengers have been taken to hospitals in the area, four of which are being treated for more serious injuries.
“A further 23 passengers have escaped injury and are now with police and counsellors in a local hotel.
“At the moment SkiBound’s priority is to assist the victims of the accident and their relatives and to work with the authorities and medical assistance companies towards their eventual repatriation to the UK.
“The exact cause of the accident is as yet not known and we must await the report from the accident investigation team in France before any comment can be made.
“SkiBound regrets to confirm that a coach travelling from the resort of Alpe d’Huez was involved in an incident, 65km from Grenoble in France, at approximately 1.45pm this afternoon local time.
“The 52 passengers travelling from Alpe d’Huez had been on their way home after finishing their ski season working for SkiBound in Alpe d’Huez with the driver.
“A special assistance team from SkiBound is in place to provide support to those affected by the incident.
“An emergency telephone line has been set up for relatives and friends to call – 01273 244650.
“Our thoughts are with those who have been involved in the accident and their relatives.
“The names of any injured parties will not be released until all next of kin have been notified.”
The coach had been chartered from the coach operator TGM, which is based in the north east. It said that it was offering its full support to all those involved.
The coach had collected SkiBound staff, who are mainly in their twenties, from the resort of Serre Chevalier before picking up the rest in Alpe d’Huez.
The chartered coach was due to drop off 24 passengers at Gatwick, 7 in Birmingham, 10 in Manchester and the final 11 in Newcastle.
The Grenoble public prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat, who is in charge of the crash investigation, told the AFP news agency: “It’s very probably a question of the brakes.”
The driver may have prevented more deaths or serious injuries by warning passengers that there was a problem with the brakes in the seconds before the crash.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that it was in touch with the French authorities and was providing consular assistance.
SkiBound, which runs skiing trips for schools, said that it was sending an independent safety specialist to the scene to support the investigation.
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