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Village in shock over crash

Posted on February 19 2012 at 11:28:49

The Alvechurch teacher killed in a school ski-trip coach crash in France has been named as Peter Rippington, known to everyone at Alvechurch Middle School as Mr Rip.

Pupils and parents have been laying floral and other tributes outside the school throughout the week as the shocking reality of the motorway tragedy hit home.

The crash happened near Reims at around 2.30am on Sunday. A 13-year-old Alvechurch girl reported to be in a coma at a French hospital is now said to have regained consciousness.

Mr Rippington’s wife, Sharon, is now back in Alvechurch with daughter Amy, 24, who was also on the coach and 21-year-old son, Max, who had travelled to Reims to be with them.

The Foreign Office said three further passengers on the coach, which was returning to Alvechurch from Pila, northern Italy, were in a serious condition and 19 others had minor injuries.

Pupils attend Alvechurch Middle School from across The Village area, including Barnt Green and Blackwell.

The death of Mr Rippington, aged 59, who has organised the school ski trips for many years, has come as a great shock to the community. He was due to retire from full-time teaching at Easter.

He lived in Alvechurch all of his life and was known by everyone as a man with a heart of gold who would do anything for anybody. He touched the lives of thousands of children in more than 30 years of teaching in the village.

Mr Rippington was head of maths at the school, but he was best-known to many as a sports teacher and only last month coached the school’s under-11s girls football side to victory in the county seven-a-side championship.

He would have been taking them to Nottingham on March 17 for the Midland stage of the competition.

Any youngster who has played competitive football in the area over the past 20 years would have found Mr Rip to be their referee at some point as he would don his black kit most weekends to officiate at match after match.

He loved skiing and without his efforts, generations of youngsters from The Village area would never have been able to enjoy a school trip to the mountains.

Outside of school he continued to organise walking trips around the country for his many friends - known affectionately as “Rip’s Trips” - and a trip to Devon planned for June is likely to still go ahead in a tribute to him.

He also enjoyed playing golf - and was looking forward to improving his game in retirement. Those who knew him didn’t expect the flag at Kings Norton Golf Club to be flying at half mast in his memory so soon.

The Foreign Office is investigating the incident and has issued an emergency helpline for people worried about relatives and friends: 0207 008 1500.

The FCO issued a statement on behalf of the Rippington family, saying: “We ask that our privacy is respected and that we are left to grieve with our friends and family.”

“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.

“We are still extremely concerned about the health of his wife, Sharon, who was injured and is still recovering in hospital in France. Sharon is accompanied by her daughter Amy, who escaped the incident with minor injuries.

“Until they are safely home we ask that our privacy is respected and that we are left to grieve with our friends and family.”

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said: “We will continue to assist both those who were on the coach and their families and friends at this difficult time.

“Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with everyone involved in or affected by the tragic coach crash in Northern France earlier today. The French authorities are investigating the accident and we are working closely with them.

“Our Ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, has seen many of the affected passengers this afternoon and has assured them that we are doing all we can to help them recover and get home. The Deputy Ambassador will be accompanying some British Nationals on their journey home today.

“The FCO has been operating a reception centre in France and a UK helpline all day and we will continue to assist both those who were on the coach and their families and friends at this difficult time. I would like to thank the French emergency services for all they have done.”

 

Holiday company Interski issued a statement this morning, saying: “We are saddened and distressed to report the death of a party leader following a coach accident in the Rheims area of Northern France at approximately 02.30 CET/GMT this morning.

“Our thoughts are with the bereaved family and friends, to whom we offer our sincere condolences. We also extend our sympathy to the four seriously injured passengers, to 22 passengers with minor injuries and to all others involved in this tragic incident.

“We understand that the coach in question veered from the motorway before coming to rest on its side at the foot of an embankment.

“The emergency services were alerted by passengers on a following coach, which stopped and assisted with the evacuation and rescue.

“The injured were taken to hospitals in Rheims and Chalon. 27 were admitted, with the remainder being taken to a nearby leisure centre in Fagnieres, where a French Red Cross team offered support, both physical and psychological.

“As soon as Interski’s senior incident staff were alerted, contact was made with the coach operator, its insurers, ABTA, the control centre of the Prefecture de la Marne, the Foreign Office, and, of course, the drivers and some of the rescued party.

The coach involved was chartered by Interski from Solus Travel. On board were 48 passengers and 2 “drivers. Of the passengers, 42 were from Alvechurch School [13 adults and 29 pupils]. The remaining 6 were Interski instructors. We are fully cooperating with the investigators to determine the cause of the accident.

“The coach was returning from the Aosta Valley, in North West Italy, following a snowsports trip. All parties directly involved are fully informed of the situation.

“A rescue vehicle is mid-Channel with P & O Ferries and is anticipated to reach Fagnieres late afternoon to bring home those considered fit to travel.

“Currently present in the area are a team from the British Consulate and senior members of the Interski Resort Team (Aosta Valley).”

 

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