A 15-year-old girl was killed and nine other people seriously injured after the coach taking them on a school trip crashed in France today.
Four other people were seriously injured and 15 others hurt in the accident involving a school party from Largs Academy which happened at 5am (local time), in Bierre-les-Semur, near Dijon.
A teacher accompanying the pupils was understood to have lost an arm in the crash.
As details of the accident emerged, distraught parents and children arrived at the North Ayrshire secondary school.
The nine people seriously injured were six pupils and three teachers. The pupils were two boys aged 15, a girl aged 14, two girls aged 13 and a girl of 12.
The three teachers injured were a 50-year-old woman and two men aged 34 and 43.
A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said all nine had ‘‘relatively serious injuries’’ but did not give any further details.
Strathclyde Police said the parents of the child who died and those injured had been informed.
Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell offered his sympathy to the youngsters, teachers and families involved.
The coach party was en route to Barcelona as part of an annual summer trip. No other vehicle was thought to be involved.
According to Strathclyde Police, there were 43 pupils, six members of staff and two drivers on the coach.
The coach had left the UK yesterday and had taken an overnight Channel crossing.
The accident happened as the coach rounded a bend while heading down a sliproad on the A6 at the junction for Bierre-les-Semur.
According to the French motorway maintenance service, the coach had hit the crash barrier and flipped over.
Four doctors and 87 firefighters had been called to the scene of the crash.
The children who escaped the accident without serious injury were taken by minibus to hospital at Semur-en-Auxois, while other injured passengers were taken to hospitals in the region.
Head teacher George Maxwell spoke to the families while a special information line was set up by North Ayrshire Council.
One pupil arriving at the school this morning said he was ‘‘overwhelmed’’ when he heard about the accident.
John Lightbody, 16, said he knew most of the children on board and was anxious to know what had happened to them.
He said: ‘‘I was overwhelmed. They were so excited about this trip. It’s just crazy. always feel this happens to everyone else, but we are the someone else.’’
John Travers, North Ayrshire’s director of education, said the pupils at the school were putting a brave face on events.
He said: ‘‘They are showing remarkable restraint and understanding.
‘‘The atmosphere at the school assembly was emotional, but restrained. The children were being very brave about trying to make sure they didn’t over react, but clearly they were very upset.’’
Mr Travers added: ‘‘Its always a shock when something like this happens. It is the worse thing that can happen in a school community.
‘‘Understandably it is very difficult, but the school is trying to provide an atmosphere of security.’’
The bus involved in the crash was owned by Allan’s Coaches of Gorebridge, Edinburgh.
Managing director David Allan said he was completely stunned by the tragedy.
He said: ‘‘This has come as a complete and utter shock. There is nothing else I can say at the moment.’’
Scottish education minister Cathy Jamieson said the tragedy would have a devastating impact on the people of Largs.
Peter McNamara, chairman of education at North Ayrshire Council, said he had heard that one pupil had died and a member of staff had lost an arm in the crash.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he had met members of the group on a visit to the school last week.
‘‘I gave the speech at their prize-giving and met all the pupils and, I believe, I met the pupils who were going on this particular trip,’’ he said.
‘‘They were absolutely over the moon and looking forward to it. As with all young people, going abroad is an exciting prospect and they were absolutely delighted to be going.’’