The family of the Old Warren coach driver killed in a Sunday morning crash in Belgium, say they hold no-one responsible for his death.
James ‘Geordie’ Chance (57), of Glenavy Gardens, was on board the Richmond Coach but was not driving, when it crashed near Middelkerke, West Flanders.
The driver Stephen Cardwell was injured, as was a 13-year-old boy - who suffered a fractured skull - and a teacher, when the vehicle carrying 35 children from Brentwood School in Essex crashed on its way to Germany.
“It was just a tragic accident,” said James’ wife Lyn.
Lyn recalled how ‘Geordie’ - originally from Newcastle - was very particular about his job and took it very seriously. He had been with Richmond Coaches for seven years.
“He was always very careful,” said Lyn.
“He would make sure everyone had their seat-belt on before the coach went anywhere.
“We were told that is why all 35 children were saved, because he was so particular. If he was even driving my mother around the corner home he’d always insist that she had her seat-belt on.”
Geordie’s loss is the third tragedy to have struck Lyn’s family.
Her teenage brother James Mulholland was killed by a drunk driver on July 28, 1979 and her son Kenneth Aitchison, who was just 19, died of leukaemia in October 6, 1995.
It was on Sky News that the Chance family discovered the shocking news about James on Sunday morning. They had been told there was a crash by the owner Brendan McKenna, of Richmond Coaches.
Carrie-Ann said, “We tried frantically ringing the British Consul, the British Embassy, BBC, UTV and we were not getting any information. We were watching the crash live on Sky News.
“When it was revealed that one of the drivers died I just knew it was daddy.”
Lyn remembers her much-loved husband as a “quiet, generous quiet man”.
“He loved nothing more than a coffee, watching Newcastle United Football Club and his grandchildren,” she said.
Carrie Ann said she last saw her daddy on Father’s Day, when she dropped him off at Richmond Coaches’ yard.
“I just said ‘watch yourself and stay safe, dad’ - something that I have never said before,” she said. “He just waved me off.
“Looking back I feel there was a reason why I said that. Perhaps it was my way of saying goodbye. It was strange, they were my last words to him.”
It was the second time that James had been abroad.
Carrie-Ann said, “He has not only left a hole in the family but in the community too.”
Carrie-Ann is expecting a girl in August and will be naming her child Georgea, after her dad.
Anyone who wants to make a donation on behalf of James is asked to donate to Angel Wishes, a cancer charity.
James is survived by his wife Lyn, children Carrie-Ann, James, Mark and Nicky and his five grandchildren.