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19 February 2013, 06:00
Lawyers representing 25 British school children and adults seriously injured in a coach crash in France while returning from a school skiing trip on 19th February 2012 confirm that the victims are still suffering from both physical and psychological injuries as the first anniversary of the crash occurs.
International serious injury experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell are representing 21 children and two teachers from Alvechurch, as well as two ski-instructors who were injured in the fatal crash. Some of the victims suffered serious, life-changing injuries when the coach came off the road near Chalons-en-Champagne, 90 miles east of Paris in northern France.
Passengers initially received emergency treatment in hospital in France before being repatriated to England where many of them have received further treatment. One year on, many of the passengers are still suffering from physical and psychological injuries caused by the accident and Irwin Mitchell is supporting them as they fight to rebuild their lives and try to put the accident behind them as far as possible.
Irwin Mitchell has already secured a large interim payment of damages on behalf of one seriously injured child, to pay for specialist treatment and adaptations to her home and to cover the cost of a suitable vehicle to help her get out and about.
Clive Garner, Head of the Travel Law Team at Irwin Mitchell that represents the passengers, said: "What should have been a safe trip home after a skiing holiday abroad has ended up being a nightmare for those involved and their families. It has been a year since the crash but many are still suffering from serious injuries and face a long battle to get their lives back on track and to come to terms with any permanent injuries.
"We will ensure that each of our clients receives justice and the full and fair financial settlements they need so that they can start to re-build their lives, knowing they will have financial security and access to the treatment, rehabilitation, therapies and other support they require both now and in the future."
The English driver of the coach has been charged by the French authorities with involuntary manslaughter. His trial in the Criminal Courts in Chalons en Champagne is likely to take place later this year.
The mother of one of the injured schoolchildren has spoken of the devastating effect the crash continues to have on their lives one year on as her daughter still relies on crutches to get around. Toni Smith Carrington's daughter Freya, age 12, from Bromsgrove, suffered an open fracture to her thigh, which meant the bone was broken and punctured through her skin.
Toni said: "The last year has been a rollercoaster of emotions and the one year anniversary is particularly poignant. Freya is still in pain every day and has a long way to go with her recovery that we hope will be helped with intensive rehabilitation and ongoing treatment.
"The psychological impact is also an ongoing battle and the 19 February will forever be a date that is filled with thoughts of what Freya went through on the coach in France."
Steve Ratheram, age 52 from Yardley Wood, Birmingham, was one of the ski instructors on the trip. He suffered multiple fractures including spinal fractures, a fractured sternum and broken ribs, as well as shoulder injuries.
He said: "The first anniversary is particularly difficult as I still do not have answers about what happened. It has been particularly difficult on my wife Mal as she has had to manage most of the family responsibilities and stay strong for everyone.
"My life has been put on hold while I receive treatment for my injuries but doctors say it is unlikely I will make a full recovery.
"I cannot begin to come to terms with this until I know what caused the crash and that someone has been held to account for mine and the other passengers' ongoing suffering."