St. Albans Tragedy 1985

The city's worst nightmare

By David Lasky

Photo:On the trip

On the trip

For the 1985 Whitsun half term holiday Verulam and Beaumont Schools jointly organised a water sports trip to France with a specialist tour operator. Travel from St. Albans was by coach, then canoeing on the Ardeche followed by sailing and windsurfing in the Mediterranean.

Unfortunately, on the morning of the 29th May during the coach journey between the Ardeche and the Mediterranean the driver had a stroke and a brain haemorrhage, which resulted in the coach crashing and overturning at Egremont near Ledignan. Killed in the accident were three boys from Verulam School, Stephen Eke, Duncan Halsted and Matthias Lasky, two girls from Beaumont School, Ann Morris and Jackie Francis and a young teacher from St. Albans Girl’s School, Barbara Ericsson, who was helping on the trip; the driver also died.

Photo:In the Ardeche

In the Ardeche

The majority of the children were hurt: the badly injured were hospitalised between Montpellier and Nimes hospitals. As a result of the prompt help from the local villagers and the speedy action of the local fire brigade many lives were saved.

The Mayor of St Albans at this time, Robert Donald, within a few hours managed to arrange a special flight for all the parents to travel to the children in France. While in France the mayors of towns local to the crash, such as Ales, Ledignan, Montpellier and Nimes arranged accommodation for all of the families who travelled from St. Albans.

Photo:Stele in France

Stele in France




The French community erected a memorial stele near the spot on the road where the accident took place and for the following decade held an annual ceremony there. Even now the stele is still tended by the local commune.



Photo:Memorial Oak & stone in Vintry Garden

Memorial Oak & stone in Vintry Garden





Here in St. Albans a service was held in the Abbey and a thirteen year old oak tree was planted (thirteen being the average age of the children who died) in the Vintry Gardens with a memorial plaque. This plaque has since been replaced by an inscribed granite block. Memorials have also been erected in Verulam and Beaumont schools.

Photo:Inscribed Stone in Vintry Garden

Inscribed Stone in Vintry Garden

This page was added by David Lasky on 31/05/2011.
Comments about this page

27 years ago today I lost a very dear friend, RIP Ann.

By Nick H.
On 21/06/2012

Went to Francis Bacon School and was 13 at the time and knew someone who survivied. Found this while looking for something else. Brought back lots of memories! r.i.p.

By Debbie
On 28/09/2012

We lost a beautiful and talented woman from our family and we miss her every single day. We love you and think about you always Barbara. Rest in heaven xxx

By Ericsson
On 12/10/2012

Still miss my beautiful sister Jackie Francis xxxx

By Sarah francis
On 29/05/2014

French local newspaper tells about the ceremony held for 31st anniversary of the tragedy:,1340154.php

By Visitor
On 31/05/2016

There is not a day that I don't remember my friends on that trip. They will always be in my thoughts. 

By Rebecca Walton
On 31/05/2016

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