Four people were being treated for serious injuries in hospital after a coach carrying Worcestershire schoolchildren home from a ski trip crashed in northern France leaving their “wonderful” teacher dead.
Peter Rippington, 59, - who was believed to be just weeks away from retirement - was killed and dozens of others injured when the bus flipped over and came to rest at the bottom of an embankment near the city of Reims in the Champagne-Ardenne region in the early hours of this morning.
Initial tests on the coach driver, who received minor injuries, showed he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and local police are believed to be investigating whether he might have fallen asleep at the wheel.
Mr Rippington’s wife Sharon and daughter Amy were also injured in the crash, which involved 29 pupils from Alvechurch Middle School in Worcestershire.
It is not known how many of the seriously injured were children, but hundreds of messages of support have been left on Twitter for a schoolgirl named Suzie who was said to be in a coma.
A statement from the Rippington family said: “We, as a family, are devastated at the tragic loss of Peter, a wonderful husband, father, son, brother, son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, friend and teacher.
“We are still extremely concerned about the health of his wife, Sharon, who was injured and is still recovering in hospital in France.
“Sharon is accompanied by her daughter Amy, who escaped the incident with minor injuries.”
Mr Rippington was described as a “one of a kind teacher” by his pupils, who gathered at the school in shock.
One ex-pupil said: ‘‘Everyone loved him. He was retiring at Easter.”
Kate Vanderplank, who has two sons who were taught by him, said: “He was a fantastic teacher, really special.
“He was great not just within the school but in the community as well.”
The 43-year-old, who said the teacher had been at the school for “many years” added: “The boys wanted to bring some flowers, they were both in shock.”
Flowers were left outside the school where children will be offered counselling, while pupils left an apple with a tribute attached.
It read: “Dear Mr Rip, you will be truly missed. You were a one of a kind teacher and you can never be replaced. You were funny and kind and always made everyone’s day.
“We will love and miss you forever and always.”
Another pupil said: “He was an amazing teacher. You could talk to him about anything. He would just sit and listen.”
A total of 27 people were taken to two local hospitals following the crash, with 22 of those said to have minor injuries.
Interski Snowsport School, the company that arranged the trip, said there were 21 adults on the coach when it crashed on the A26 at Chalons-en-Champagne.
There were two drivers on board, along with six Interski instructors and 13 adults belonging to the school party.
Next page: Interski statement >