By Ian Dipple 19/02 Updated: 20/02 13:03
A TEACHER has died after being involved in a coach crash in France which was carrying pupils from Alvechurch Middle School.
The 59-year-old man, named as Peter Rippington, was travelling with 29 pupils and 12 other adults connected with the school on the coach when it crashed about 2.30am on Sunday (February 19) near Chalons-en-Champagne, in northern France.
His wife Sharon was also the coach and is being treated in hospital while their daughter Amy was also involved and suffered minor injuries.
A statement from the family said they were still extremely concerned about Sharon's health and asked until both were safely home to be left to grieve in peace.
"We as a family are devastated by the tragic loss of Peter, a wonderful husband, father, son, brother, son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, friend and teacher."
A Facebook page has been set up and tributes have been pouring in for the maths and games teacher who was affectionately known as 'Mr Rips'.
One posted: "R.I.P. to a truly amazing, teacher, friend, inspirational figure.
"Nothing was ever too much trouble, and it so sad to think that he died after doing something that he had done for many many years.
"He was a fabulous teacher for so many years but also a childhood friend of my dad and all our family. Its such a sad loss demonstrated by all the comments by everyone today. Alvechurch is in mourning."
Another posted: "I still can't get my head around it, you were so much more than a teacher to so many people, you truly touched the lives of anyone who knew you," she added.
The group had been returning from a sking trip in the Aosta Valley area of Italy when the coach left the motorway, veered down and embankment and came to rest on its side.
Four other people were seriously hurt, one believed to be a teenage girl who is critically ill and has been flown to the specialist children's hospital in Parish, and 22 other suffered minor injuries.
Those injured were taken to hospitals in Rheims and Chalon, while the others were taken to a nearby leisure centre in Fagnieres, where a French Red Cross team offered support, both physical and psychological.
There were two coaches involved, one carrying girls and another boys, and it is the girls coach which crashed. The boys coach returned to the school about 1pm on Sunday. More of those involved are expected to return to the UK later this evening.
The school is planning to open tomorrow (Monday), where teachers and specially trained staff will continue to provide support to those affected.
West Mercia Police and Worcestershire County Council is working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to support those families affected.
Supt Steve Cullen said: "This is a very sad incident and I want to express our sympathy to all those affected by the crash.
"I also want to reassure local people that we are doing all we can to help and support the families of the children and members of staff involved. Specially trained family liaison officers have been put in place at the school and a dedicated support team of experienced officers are liaising with the FCO.
"Local policing officers from the Alvechurch area are also on the ground and supporting the school and local residents in any way they can."
Coun Liz Eyre, responsible for children's services on the council, said: "We are shocked and saddened about the accident early this morning. Our thoughts are with those involved and their families.
"The county council's crisis support team are working closely with the school to provide support and advice to the parents, carers and of course the passengers returning back from the school trip."
The Foreign Office has sent a consular team to the scene to provide assistance. Sir Peter Ricketts, Britain's French ambassador has been speaking to those affected and assured them everything is being done to get them home as soon as possible.
Anyone worried about relatives or friends should call the Foreign Office on 0207 008 1500.
The Bishop of Worcester Dr John Inge said: "I was shocked to hear the news of the terrible coach crash in France.
"My thoughts and prayers are with those who have been bereaved, those who have been injured and their families, and all at Alvechurch School, as are the prayers of many people in the diocese of Worcester.”
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