Douglas De Coninck is the author of De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead. The book centres around the 2012 bus crash that happened in the Sierre Tunnel, A9 Autobahn, Valais, Switzerland and alleges that the driver, Geert Michiels, 34, was in a destructive relationship and had also been medicated with GlaxoSmithKline's Seroxat. The generic name for Seroxat is paroxetine and it is better known in the US and Canada by its brand name Paxil and in Australia and New Zealand as Aropax.
Sadly, De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead is only available in Dutch print, something that I will be calling for to be changed as the story within is of a massive public interest regarding antidepressant medication and induced psychosis. It's a book that, I believe, needs to be widely distributed and read by the public and healthcare professionals alike.
Douglas De Coninck is an investigative journalist at De Morgen, a Belgian newspaper. He lives and works in Brussels.
There were 52 on board, 28 people perished, 22 of them were children. The other 24 pupils, all aged between 10 and 12, were injured, including three who were hospitalized with severe brain and chest injuries.
A full investigation into the crash was carried out by Swiss Chief Prosecutor Olivier Elsig, the results of which were inconclusive. He ruled out the involvement of a third party, shortcomings in the road surface or the tunnel infrastructure. Excessive speed, alcohol or technical problems with the vehicle were also ruled out. He, at no point, could determine whether or not Geert Michiels carried out an act of homicide/suicide with the vehicle. In fact the final report leaves more questions than it does answers.
Douglas De Coninck became interested in the story and carried out his own investigation. He has kindly given me permission to publish segments of his book (in English).
On October 05, 2015 I published my own findings on the crash in Sierre. I had painstakingly translated Dutch newspaper articles so I could get to grips with the investigation. My findings, which can be read here, included me sending an email to TopTours, a small family run Aarschot-based coach company who owned the coach Michiels was driving on that fateful evening of 13 March 2012. Top Tours failed to respond to my email which was, in essence, a couple of questions, namely;
Do TopTours have any protocol in place where driver's are either...
a) required to let TopTours know that they are on medication?
b) required to stay off work until they have finished their course of prescription medication?
Douglas De Coninck has since informed me that the TopTours owners grasp of English isn't that great and that my email could have been deleted. Douglas, however, has provided me with the chapter from his book that covers these questions that I had previously asked.
TopTours, like many transportation companies, including airline companies, are stuck in a quandary when it comes to issues regarding the operators of their vehicles.
This extract from De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead...
(Tom is manager of TopTours)
Since Sierre Tom asks his candidates for honest answers to the question of whether they take medication. "I'm obviously powerless," he says."What will you say when your boss asks you whether you are taking medication and you know that your job depends on it?"
Tom was the only one who knew that Geert and Evy were married. "He spoke to me one day, asked me to promise to not say anything about it. To tell nobody at all. To me he had to say it, you need that kind of information for payroll. I found it a bit weird. Normally this is something festive, wedding, but okay, I didn't think about it, later on. Yes, afterwards, of course."
On March 6, 2013, a year after the tragedy, the eyes fell upon Tom and Katia when an interview with Michiels' wife, Evy, featured in the weekly magazine Knack. There she repeated it again, that this was supposed to be one of his last shuttles for Toptours "He was planning to stop the end of March, to do me a favor," Evy is reported saying.
"Three weeks before the accident, Geert came to us to ask if there was the possibility to come and work here as a full-time driver. He had heard that one of our drivers would leave since he was moving. We told him that he had to realize that he could not earn here what he earns at De Lijn (his other job), and now he was able to combine the two. He then said that he was looking for a new job and that it was his dream to become a coach driver. This has also been stated by several drivers in the firm."
A few weeks after the accident Tom and his wife, Katia, went to visit Evy. After she read out a letter at the funeral in Heverlee where she said it was still unclear who was behind the wheel, and that was repeated in Het Laatste Nieuws, they hoped that they could make her stop lying (she was told the first day that Geert was driving).
They met in the flat in the Amerstraat in Aarschot. She told Tom and Katia that she hoped they could have contact with his (Geert's) daughter, because she often went with three of them to the zoo. (This was a lie)
It would, of course, be beneficial if GSK or the European Medicines Agency (EMA) carried out their own investigation, however, the word beneficial means something totally different to these two entities.
Email to Medicine Regulators Regarding 2012 Sierre Bus Crash
Purchase the Book ~ De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead