Tributes paid to coach driver

Tributes have been paid to a coach driver from the North East who died in a crash in the French Alps. The Classic Coaches vehicle was carrying ski resort staff back to the UK from Alpe d'Huez, with Newcastle being its final destination.

Tributes paid to heroic County Durham coach driver

Tributes have been paid to a heroic County Durham coach driver who is believed to have died trying to stop his malfunctioning vehicle going over a ravine in the Alps.

Maurice Wrightson died when the coach he was driving left the road on Tuesday, smashing into rocks before bursting into flames.

Friends and family left scores of comments on a Facebook tribute page for the driver, who worked for Classic Coaches, based at Annfield Plain.

He is understood to have been a driver since the 1960s, and other tributes came in from bus and coach drivers across the country praising him for his actions.

"Everyone who knew Maurice liked him. Everyone who met him had a Maurice story to tell. And every Maurice story left you smiling...RIP a legend to us all...."

– Steve Wardlaw

Wendy Wrightson described him as "a good man who lost his life far too soon but lost it a hero doing what he did best".

Heath Williams, managing director of TGM, the coach firm's parent company, paid tribute to Mr Wrightson, saying he would be "sadly missed".

"Early indications are that our driver tried to take evasive action and that he alerted passengers.

"We pay tribute to him for his efforts, and also to our relief driver who helped people to leave the vehicle."

– Heath Williams, managing director of TGM,

"We lit all our candles last night and chatted fondly about you.

"You will be a huge miss to many people but I wish you peace and sleep well, you deserve it.

"I am sure your star will be shining brightly for all to see and see it we all will."

– Wendy Wrightson

French Transport minister praises "remarkable courage" of coach driver

64-year-old Maurice Wrightson was driving more than 50 people on their way back from Alpe d'Huez when the coach left the road on Tuesday, smashing into rocks before bursting into flames.

French police say they suspect there was a problem with the vehicle's brakes.

The driver's "remarkable courage" was praised by French transport minister Frederic Cuvilliern when he visited the scene.

The minister reportedly said the position of the bus suggested Mr Wrightson tried to slow the bus down by hitting rocks rather than risk it going over a precipice and that his actions saved lives.

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Full Report: North East coach driver killed in French bus crash

A North East bus driver who died in a crash in the French Alps has been hailed as a hero.

The quick thinking of 64-year-old Maurice Wrightson, a driver with County Durham firm Classic Coaches, is thought to have saved the lives of the passengers on board.

He steered his coach into a tree to stop it going over the edge of a mountain after it developed problems.

Investigators are now trying to establish exactly what went wrong.

You can watch the full report from Kenny Toal below.

Coach driver's actions before crash in France may have saved lives

The owners of a North East coach company said a driver alerted passengers before his vehicle crashed in France last night - which may have saved lives. The driver himself, who was from the North East, was killed.

TGM, which owns Classic Coaches, said the driver tried to take evasive action and paid tribute to his efforts.

Coach crash
The coach smashed into rocks and burst into flames Credit: RP/Reuters

The company also paid tribute to a second driver from the North East, who was uninjured, for helping passengers to leave the vehicle.

It added: “It is too early to say what caused the accident, however, we have launched a full investigation and are working closely with the local authorities. Our own safety specialist is attending the scene to support the investigation.”

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Crash driver hailed a hero

The bus driver who died in a crash in the Alps has been hailed a hero. The driver, who was working for Stanley-based Classic Coaches, is said to have warned passengers there seemed to be a problem before taking evasive action.

The company he worked for released a statement paying tribute to his quick thinking. Investigations are ongoing now into what may have caused the crash.

We are deeply saddened to learn that one of our two drivers on board has died. We are offering our full support to his family and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time. He will be sadly missed by everyone at Classic Coaches. A number of passengers have sustained injuries and our thoughts are with them as they recover. Early indications are that our driver tried to take evasive action and that he alerted passengers.

We pay tribute to him for his efforts, and also to our relief driver who helped people to leave the vehicle. It is too early to say what caused the accident, however, we have launched a full investigation and are working closely with the local authorities.

– Heath Williams, Managing Director TGM

North East coach driver confirmed as crash victim

British ski company Skibound has confirmed that a coach driver from the North East has died in a crash in the French Alps.

The vehicle was carrying ski resort staff back to the UK from Alpe d'Huez when it crashed 65km from Grenoble at approximately 1:45pm local time.

The driver was one of two North East employees from the bus company Arriva, who were transporting 52 people back to the UK, with Newcastle as their final destination.

The ski company said 29 passengers have been taken to hospitals in the area, four of which are being treated for more serious injuries. The further 23 passengers have escaped serious injury and are now with police and councillors at a local hotel.

In a statement Skibound said:

At the moment, Skibounds' priority is to assist the victims of the accident and their relatives and to work with the authorities and medical assistance companies towards their eventual repatriation to the U.K.

The exact cause of the accident is as yet not known and we must await the report from the accident investigation team in France before any comment can be made.

– Skibound
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