Northern Ireland

NI driver killed in Belgium school trip bus crash

Media captionBen Moore reports: Eyewitnesses have said that the coach went into the pillar of a motorway bridge

A bus driver from Northern Ireland has been killed in a coach crash in Belgium.

James 'Geordie' Chance was on a bus carrying 34 school children from an Essex school in the UK.

A second driver from Northern Ireland, Stephen Cardwell, is in a stable condition in hospital.

A 13-year-old schoolboy from Brentwood School is in intensive care following the crash on Sunday morning.

He suffered a head injury. It is understood that three pupils and two teachers were treated in hospital.

The bus company, Richmond Coaches, is from Lisburn, County Antrim.

The bus overturned on the A18 (E40) at Middelkerke, West Flanders at 09:45 local time (08:45 BST).

Eyewitnesses said it crashed into a motorway bridge pillar.

Image caption A rescue worker carries students' backpacks from the bus

The children from Brentwood School were all aged from 11 to 13 years old.

Ian Davies, the school's head teacher said: "All of the children managed to walk off the coach.

"One of the children subsequently had a head injury. He had a scan and they found a small brain bleed as part of his fractured skull."

He said that some parents were trying to get to Belgium and that some teachers had already set off.

"I have spoken to the lead teacher on the trip. He is in hospital, I think he broke his collar bone, but seemed in as good a shape as could be expected."

Image caption Ian Davies said one student had suffered a head injury

The school is now working with the Foreign Office to try and get the children home as soon as possible, while a spokesman for the department said it was working with the Belgian authorities to establish details of the incident.

A spokesman from Richmond Coaches of Ballinderry Road, Lisburn, confirmed that one of its vehicles had been involved in the crash.

He said what had happened was "a tragedy" and the company was co-operating with the authorities.

He said the company's thoughts were with everyone involved and they were cooperating fully with the authorities.

Lisburn councillor Patrick Catney, who knows the family of the company owners, said: "This is so sad, it's so tragic.

"This company is very long-established and has a great safety record - they only operate top of the line luxury coaches."

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