Four young people aged between 15 and 19 have died after their car fell into a lake in eastern France after skidding on ice.
The incident happened in Jura (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté) yesterday (January 19).
Early reports suggest that the driver, who was the only adult in the car, lost control of the vehicle due to ice, causing it to slip away from the road and fall more than 10 metres into Lake Chalain. The lake is around 30 kilometres east of Lons-le-Saunier.
Only one of the five occupants, a 17-year-old boy, was able to escape. He flagged down a passerby, who alerted the emergency services. The boy was later hospitalised for hypothermia.
Of the occupants, only the driver was over the age of 18. All were lycée students at the Académie de Besançon, and lived at the boarding house in the commune of Champagnole, around 20 kilometres away from the lake.
A manslaughter inquiry has now been opened into the incident.
Lionel Pascal, prosecutor in Lons-le-Saunier, told FranceInfo that the testimony of the one survivor would be central to the case.
He said: “This young man will tell us what the plan was. Did they come to this road knowingly, or did they somehow get there by mistake?”
Jura prefect, David Philot, who visited the scene of the accident on Wednesday night, said: “Above all, our thoughts are with the friends and family of these young people.
“We also want to support their classmates at their lycée in the hours and days to come.”
Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, also sent his condolences.
He wrote on Twitter: "After this tragedy, which affects the entire educational community and particularly the Besançon academy, I want to express my sorrow and send all my thoughts to the families and friends of the students.
“The state services are fully ready to help the victims' families and friends.”
Après ce drame qui touche toute la communauté éducative et tout particulièrement @acbesancon, je veux exprimer ma peine et adresser toutes mes pensées aux familles et aux proches des lycéens.— Jean-Michel Blanquer (@jmblanquer) January 19, 2022
Les services de l'État sont pleinement mobilisés auprès de l'entourage des victimes: https://t.co/WPRFto7Ft0
A crisis unit has also been set up in Lons-le-Saunier, to help offer support to those who need it, in connection with the case.