Bus driver killed in crash praised as hero

April 18, 2013 at 1:47 AM

GRENOBLE, France, April 18 (UPI) -- The driver of a British bus that crashed in the French Alps may have saved the lives of everyone else on board, a French official said.

Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier praised Maurice Wrightson's "remarkable courage," the Daily Mirror reported.

Wrightson was the only person killed in the crash Tuesday near Alpe d'Huez in Isere. The bus, chartered by British travel company SkiBound from TGM, a transport company in northern England, was carrying 51 passengers and two other drivers.

Passengers said the brakes apparently failed as Wrightson drove down a steep and winding road. They described Wrightson keeping the bus on the road while shouting instructions to the passengers before steering it into a cliff. If the bus had gone off the road into one of the many ravines, many of the passengers could have died.

Friends and family said Wrightson, who lived in Ashington, Northumberland, was an experienced bus driver who worked at the London Olympics last summer.

"There seems no doubt Maurice gave his life to save the passengers," said Janet Dawson, who had worked with him. "There can be no greater sacrifice. That was typical of him, he was such a lovely man."

At least four of the passengers were seriously injured, including one young woman who was burned over most of her body.

Most of those on the bus were SkiBound employees returning to Britain after working at French ski resorts.

The road where the crash occurred is one of the best-known parts of the Tour de France bicycle race.

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