THE DRIVER of a coach which crashed in France and killed an Alvechurch teacher will stand trial tomorrow (Wednesday) for manslaughter.
Derek Thompson will appear before a French court following the collision which happened near Chalons-en-Champagne, 90 miles east of Paris on February 19, 2012.
The coach was carrying staff and pupils from Alvechurch Middle School who were on their way back from a skiing trip.
The crash claimed the life of 59-year-old Peter Rippington who had taught at the school for more than 30 years, while several pupils and two-ski instructors suffered severe injuries.
If convicted Thompson could face a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison, along with a fine of up to €45,000.
One of the theories the court is expected to look into will be whether or not the driver fell asleep at the wheel. Although it is understood Thompson did not recall falling asleep or what caused the coach to leave the road.
The trial is expected to finish in the afternoon but it could be weeks until the verdict is known.
Specialist international serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have been representing 25 passengers injured in the incident.
Clive Garner, head of international personal injury at Irwin Mitchell, said: “For those who have been injured in this terrible incident the trial is a very important step forward.
“Our clients want to know exactly what caused this catastrophe more than three years ago and the detailed examination of the incident in a court of law in France should bring our clients’ answers to some of their questions and bring their fight for justice nearer to a conclusion.”
Steve Ratheram, 53, suffered injuries from the crash and was taken to a local hospital with spinal fractures, a fractured sternum and broken ribs.
The former ski instructor said: “We all just want to know what happened to cause the crash as it’s been more than three years since it happened.
“We are relieved the French criminal proceedings are now moving forward as we hope they will shed more light on the events which caused our nightmare to begin.
“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.
“We all want to move on from the crash and move forward with our lives so I am pleased that the criminal trial is now happening.”