Europe Belgium coach crash: Brentwood School pupils come home

Belgium coach crash: Brentwood School pupils come home

Pupils returned to Brentwood School in the early hours of Monday
Pupils returned to Brentwood School in the early hours of Monday

Schoolchildren involved in a coach crash in Belgium in which a driver died have returned to Essex.

James “Geordie” Chance, from Northern Ireland, was killed when the bus carrying 34 Brentwood School pupils crashed on a motorway on Sunday.

Two boys remain in hospital in Belgium. One of them, aged 13, is in intensive care with a head injury.

Several pupils travelled back to the UK late on Sunday night on a coach arranged by the school.

“The coach returning the remaining pupils and staff has just arrived at school safely,” tweeted Brentwood School head Ian Davies.

“Thoughts and prayers still with two pupils in hospital,” he added.

The Belgian authorities are working to establish details of the accident, which happened on the A18 (E40) at Middelkerke, West Flanders. Eyewitnesses said the bus crashed into a motorway bridge pillar.

A spokesman for Richmond Coaches, the bus operator, said the company was “devastated” to hear of the death of Mr Chance, who was in his 50s.

Belgian Police told me the crash happened between the junctions for the small seaside town of Middelkerke.

As I used the motorway, I realised it would be possible to drive past without realising what had happened less than 24 hours ago.

Earlier on, I stood on top of the bridge, as the sun came up.

There was no obvious sign of the collision below. No signs, no roadworks.

The modern-looking Sint Augustinus hospital in Vuerne where a 13-year-old boy is in intensive care is a short distance from the busy E40 motorway.

Thirty-four school pupils were on board the coach which crashed on a Belgian motorway
Thirty-four school pupils were on board the coach which crashed on a Belgian motorway

I understand the pupil’s parents are at his bedside.

One of the injured boys, 12, is being treated for a broken leg at a hospital in Bruges.

Other students, a number of whom were treated for cuts, bruising and swelling, were picked up by their parents who travelled to Belgium.

The teacher in charge of the trip was taken to hospital with a broken collarbone.

Mr Chance, a grandfather of five, was sitting in the coach’s courier seat when the vehicle crashed at 09:45 local time (08:45 BST), Richmond Coaches confirmed.

The bus’s driver, Stephen Cardwell, who is also from Northern Ireland, is said to be in a stable condition in hospital.

Brendan McKenna, director of Richmond Coaches, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families that have been affected by this tragic accident.”