Blog tells of pre-crash holiday joy

A torchlight march, ravioli and meatball dinners, rides in a funicular railway, A singalong and a dress-up casino evening were some of the things that made a fateful Swiss Alps trip “mega-cool” for 24 Belgian schoolchildren.

Blog tells of pre-crash holiday joy

A torchlight march, ravioli and meatball dinners, rides in a funicular railway, A singalong and a dress-up casino evening were some of the things that made a fateful Swiss Alps trip “mega-cool” for 24 Belgian schoolchildren.

But the good times turned to tragedy for the St Lambertus school pupils on Tuesday night when their bus, which also carried youngsters from a second Belgian school, crashed inside a Swiss tunnel on its way home.

Twenty-two youngsters from the two different schools died, along with six adults.

The dead included “teacher Frank”, who had set up a native-language Dutch blog that had kept parents and schoolchildren who stayed home informed about all the fun.

Yesterday parents were flown to Switzerland to find out whether their children were still alive. Sixteen St Lambertus pupils were confirmed to have survived, but the fate of eight others was unknown, at least to their families.

Nine days earlier, they had left for the holiday of their lives in the snow-covered Alps of Switzerland, an annual highlight for pupils at St Lambertus, a 200-strong small Roman Catholic institution in Heverlee, on the outskirts of the old university town Leuven.

According to the blog, the week began flawlessly.

“This is our first blog posting,” wrote Frank Van Kerckhove, the teacher who set up the blog. “The bus trip was very smooth. There was little traffic. We watched the movie Avatar (and) no one became car sick on the climb” into the Alps.

In the days that followed, the youngsters posted about their vacation with youthful exuberance.

“This afternoon we had soup and ravioli, very delicious,” one girl wrote on March 6.

Relatives were grateful that Mr Van Kerckhove, one of six adults who died in the crash, had set up the site.

“The blog was incredible. It had so many great pictures,” said Anne De Roo, whose three children are former students at the school. The fate of her nephew was now uncertain.

“He constantly gave us news about what happened, the sked of the day,” she said of Mr Van Kerckhove. His last words came down to ’we see you back soon’,“ she said.

The children would blog under Van Kerckhove’s tutelage.

“Today was totally the best. The adventurous walk was tiring, but mega-cool,” one girl wrote. “We won first prize for cleanest room. Tomorrow it’s going to be colder. Byyyeeee!”

On March 10, another boy wrote: “Things are super here in Saint-Luc. The skiing, the weather, the food. It’s not bad at all. Tomorrow I play in the Muppet Show. ... I have seen quite a few dogs. I’m now reading the book ’Why Dogs Have Wet Noses.’ Very interesting! I miss you all.”

Towards the week’s end, the posts revealed early signs of homesickness.

“Dear mama and papa. I like it here a lot, but I miss you. Love you. Kisses.” And: “Hey, mama, papa ... It is super here and the sun shines the whole day. But I do miss you! XXX.”

The posts came with scores of photos the youngsters made during their trip.

On the St Lambertus school gate yesterday, staff put up drawings made by students to honour their teacher. “I’ll never forget you, Teacher Frank,” one read. “You are the greatest ever!”

And outside the school, parents spoke highly of Mr Van Kerckhove. Teary-eyed, some recalled his last post, dated March 11 – the eve of the return trip.

“Tomorrow will be a busy day and I do not know if I can write a blog posting,” Mr Van Kerckhove wrote. “But on Wednesday we’ll be back, all of us.”

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