Our group travel client called the Pharos Response 24/7 incident line at 0230 to report a serious incident. A luxury coach carrying their customers, predominantly all children, was on its side in Europe after the coach left the motorway and crashed.
Our group travel client called the Pharos Response 24/7 incident line at 0230 to report a serious incident. A luxury coach carrying their customers, predominantly all children, was on its side in Europe after the coach left the motorway and crashed. Two children who were not wearing seatbelts at the time were thrown from the coach on impact and were in a very serious condition and were airlifted to hospital. Ten of the other passengers who had less severe injuries were taken to hospital in ambulances. Media coverage locally to the accident broke quickly along with images of the crashed coach, which then triggered media coverage local to the UK-based coach company before this became a national UK news story.
All passengers thankfully survived but one young person sustained life changing injuries. The driver of the contracted coach company was later suspended from driving and the coach company was fined.
In an incident like this, once the most seriously injured are in hospital, the priority falls to ensuring everyone else is well looked after, that minor injuries are treated, that they are moved to a place of comfort, that their shock is managed as best as possible and that everyone can speak to their loved ones. Pharos was able to provide advice on how best to achieve all of this quickly. In order to support the ongoing immediate operational response, a Pharos director travelled to the client’s Head office to assist the crisis team directly.
Communicating with the various stakeholders fast was vital. It became immediately apparent that this was going to be a big news story and some key stakeholders needed to be informed before they found out via the media. This involved two third party organisations who would have a voice about the incident (including our client’s client) and of course the next of kin of all passengers and staff.
The media was going to play a major part in this incident so Pharos was able to regularly update the media statement as new information came to light and advise the client on how to manage the media. This included aligning their own statement with the coach company and the two third parties and also quickly providing a comment for the group tour leader who was on the coach for use when approached by reporters at the scene.
Pharos stage-managed the return of the group (excluding the two most seriously injured who remained in hospital) to avoid the awaiting media and sourced a trauma counsellor who was able meet the group at a ‘secret’ location. This included spending time with the children’s parents before they arrived.
Ongoing guidance was given to the client in managing their insurers to ensure the necessary support for the injured, in particular those who were still in hospital and their families, could be provided.
The priority in responding to this incident initially was speed in communicating and caring for those affected. It was essential to get the client’s response to the situation caught up with the speed that the event was unfolding to ensure they could remain in control. Pharos’ experience and insights enabled the client to achieve this while also providing the essential care and support for those affected and their families. Being open and honest with families and other stakeholders is key as a relationship based on trust needs to be formed quickly. Our client’s client felt they had been well supported throughout and that the detail was well managed. This was a very serious incident that put the lives of children in considerable danger so the need to respond with care and compassion was essential.