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British driver dead as coach carrying ski season workers crashes in Alps

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The bus, with 53 people on board, was on the notorious descent of Alpe D’Huez when it careered off a hairpin bend and erupted in flames.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of a tragic incident involving British nationals in the Isere region of southern France. We are in touch with the local authorities."

The 64-year-old driver, one of two on board the coach, is believed to have died at the scene. The coach is believed to have been owned by the Co Durham-based Classic Coaches.

The bus was hired by the Brighton-based company Skibound, which was bringing its staff back to the UK at the end of the season.

The passengers, aged between 20 and 30, had been working at hotels across the region in a variety of jobs.

Skibound said: "A special assistance team from Skibound is in place to provide support to those affected by the incident.

"Our thoughts are with those who have been involved in the accident and their relatives. The names of any injured parties will not be released until all next of kin have been notified."

Pictures from the scene showed the maroon bus completely engulfed in flames and thick black smoke. Charred rubble and the twisted metal of the bus’s framework was all that remained when firefighters had managed to extinguish the fire.

A red trailer with the logo ‘Classic – proud of our quality’ is believed to have been towed by the bus to carry luggage and ski equipment. It did not catch fire but was burned by the heat.

Local reports said many passengers jumped from the moving bus shortly before it crashed at around 14.45 local time.

Four people suffering serious injuries were airlifted to Grenoble Hospital and a further 22 were treated at a temporary medical centre at nearby Bourg d’Oisan before being transferred to the hospital as a precaution.

Some had managed to get out of the burning vehicle alone and others were cut free by firefighters.

Those who escaped unharmed were later transferred to a hotel in Grenoble.

Sir Peter Ricketts, the British Ambassador to France, was on his way to the scene with consular staff.

Frédéric Perissat, secretary general of the Isère local government, told the Daily Telegraph: "The deceased was a 64-year old Briton who was driving the coach when it crashed."

He confirmed that the coach had been chartered by British company Skybound and was carrying young people who had been working in hotels, as chalet hands, ski instructors, and in restaurants via British tour operators.

"They had left Alpes d’Huez," he said. "The coach was going down the valley to Bourg d’Oisans but at the last turn, the coach failed to brake, couldn’t stop and hit the mountain.

"Weather conditions were fine. We don’t know at this stage whether this was the result of a human or technical failing."

Concerned relatives can call an emergency number set up by Skibound: 01273 244 650

By Henry Samuel and Victoria Ward - 16th April 2013 -

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