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By Ian Dipple Tuesday 20 November 2012 Updated: 21/11 11:26
THE FAMILIES of school children and adults injured in a coach crash in France while returning from a skiing trip are suing the company which organised it.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell are representing 20 children and two teachers from Alvechurch Middle School - as well as two ski-instructors - which suffered serious, life-changing injuries in the crash during the early hours of the morning on February 19. The party was returning to the UK when the coach came off the road near Chalons-en-Champagne, close to Rheims in Northern France.
Popular teacher Peter Rippington, 59, lost his life while other passengers were left with multiple injuries, including spinal and limb fractures, lacerations, dental injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some of them are still unable to walk nine months after the crash and many more are struggling to rebuild their lives and get over the psychological trauma caused by the fatal incident.
The families are suing trip organiser Interschool Travel Limited, trading as Interski, for damages for their pain and suffering, past and future financial losses and expenses, as well as the cost of specialist rehabilitation, therapies and ongoing support they need.
An initial interim payment on behalf of one seriously injured child has already been secured to pay for treatment and adaptations to her home to make it wheelchair accessible and a suitable vehicle.
Toni Smith Carrington's daughter Freya was one of those injured and she said she was disappointed and frustrated there had been no admission of responsibility. The 12-year-old, from Bromsgrove, suffered an open fracture to her thigh - which meant the bone was broken and punctured through her skin. She still needs crutches to get around.
"Seeing Freya suffering every day because of her injuries is a nightmare. She is in constant pain and it is frustrating as her mother, there is nothing I can do to help," she said.
"All I can hope for is we get Freya the treatment and rehabilitation therapy she needs to recover as much as she can from her injuries. She can’t enjoy time with her friends socialising as much as she used to because she just can’t walk very far anymore and struggles when she goes out."
Clive Garner, leading the team from Irwin Mitchell, said: "What should have been a safe trip home for our clients after an enjoyable holiday has ended in tragedy, changing the lives of many of these school children and adults forever.
"Over more than a decade, we have been calling for improved driver training, monitoring and supervision to reduce the risk of coach crashes occurring. More still needs to be done to provide greater protection to bus and coach passengers and regrettably we have seen a recent spate of serious bus and coach crashes in Europe and the UK.
"Many of our clients want to know why the coach they were travelling in came to leave the road and whether this incident could and should have been avoided. Like their legal team, they want lessons to be learned so in the future others do not need to go through the suffering they have had to endure and will continue to endure in the coming months and years ahead."
Coach driver Derek Thompson, 47, has been charged by French authorities with involuntary manslaughter and is due to stand trial in Chalons-en-Champagne early in 2013.
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