Teacher dies in school coach crash

Tributes have been paid to a ``wonderful'' Worcestershire teacher, who was killed when a coach carrying schoolchildren crashed in northern France.

Peter Rippington, 59, died and dozens of others were 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 Sunday.

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.

Peter Rippington & wife SharonMr Rippington's wife Sharon and daughter Amy were also injured in the crash, which involved 29 pupils from Alvechurch Middle School in Worcestershire. Four people were being treated for serious injuries last night.

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.''

Kate Vanderplank, whose two sons were taught by Mr Rippington, said: ``He was great not just within the school but in the community as well.''

Pupils left an apple with a tribute attached, which 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.''

A statement from the coach company Solus Coaches says:

"We are extremely saddened to learn of the tragic coach accident involving one of our vehicles in the Rheims area of Northern France. Our thoughts are with the breaved to whom we offer ur sincere condolences. We are also obviously highly concerned for the welfare of the injured passengers and all others involved in this incident.

It will be appreciated that we cannot comment further at this stage but would reassure that we are liaising closely with the tour operator involved, Interski, in addition to making every effort to assist the Foreign and other authorities."

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The Foreign Office (FCO) is investigating the accident and is providing consular assistance to those affected, while the British ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, has met with passengers.

The Foreign Office has set up a helpline for those concerned: 0207 008 1500.

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