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Teacher and two sisters killed

Separate accidents claim three lives and more than 20 injured

TWO children and a teacher have been killed in two separate accidents in Champagne-Ardennes.

More than 20 people were injured in the first crash, early on Sunday, near Chalons-en-Champagne, and teacher Peter Rippington, 59, killed as a school party from Alvechurch School in Worcestershire were returning from a ski holiday in Italy.

Mr Rippington's wife Sharon was amongst the injured, and their daughter escaped with minor injuries.

In the second crash, later in the day near Bogny-sur-Meuse, two sisters aged nine and 13 were killed when the minibus they were travelling in skidded on black ice and hit a tree. A 12 year old boy was also slightly injured.

The children were being taken to a centre for disadvantaged children in Monthermé, Ardennes, when the minibus went off the road.

This morning 10 people were still in hospitals in Rheims and Chalon - four with serious injuries including one in critical condition - after the school coach crash.

The driver has been arrested and police are trying to find out if he dozed off at the wheel. Witnesses said the coach drifted to the right without being straightened up in the moment before it toppled into a ditch.

There were were two drivers and 48 passengers, including 29 children, on the coach which was returning to the UK after a trip to Aosta in the Italian Alps.

British ambassador Sir Peter Ricketts and his Ajay Scharma visited the survivors and Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said that he had "assured them that we are doing all we can to help them recover and get home".

Anyone worried about relatives and friends should call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Helpline on +44 207 008 1500.

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