France charges Spanish coach driver after freak accident
French prosecutors Monday charged a Spanish coach driver with reckless endangerment after he drove the vehicle under a low bridge, causing the roof to be shorn off and seriously injuring six passengers.
The 59-year-old driver has been charged with causing “involuntary injuries” through “manifestly deliberate violation of a duty of care or safety”, Lille public prosecutor Frederic Fevre told AFP.
The coach was taking 53 Spanish youths and their chaperones to Amsterdam when the pre-dawn accident occurred outside Lille on Sunday.
The coach, with two drivers, was on lease from July 25 to August 1, during which time the holidaymakers were to lodge at a camping ground and make a number of excursions from Amsterdam.
The youths, aged between 18 and 29, had boarded the coach in the Spanish Basque city of Bilbao.
The entire top of the coach was shorn off in the accident, leaving 34 passengers in need of medical attention including six with serious injuries.
A Lille hospital source said their lives are not in danger.
Spain’s ambassador to France visited the injured early Monday.
The driver, who had a reputation as a competent professional, faces further penalties because he did not have the right to drive on the road where the accident took place, Fevre said.
Fevre said he was devastated by the accident and insisted that he had followed his GPS navigator.
Police said the driver had not taken the normal route for unknown reasons.
Authorities said testing for alcohol or drugs had come up negative, while the coach’s data recorder was taken for analysis.