Zantac Lawsuit

Researching drug company and regulatory malfeasance for over 16 years
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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sierre Bus Crash Revisited

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 is right and this is something that needs to change not only with coach/bus companies but with airlines too. Lest we forget Germanwings Flight 9525 where co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who it has since been learned had been on a cocktail of psychiatric medication, deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps, killing all  144 passengers and six crew members.

Lubitz, according to the New York Times, was treated from January 2009 to that October with at least two drugs, the SSRi Lexapro (escitalopram) and the antidepressant Remeron (mirtazapine)

Interestingly, the NYT substantiates the statement made by Tom from TopTours with...

"There is also evidence suggesting that Mr. Lubitz might have tried to mislead the F.A.A. about his treatment, initially marking “no” in response to a question on whether he had ever been treated for mental disorders on a form dated June 2010."

The FAA are the agency responsible for the advancement, safety and regulation of civil aviation, as well as overseeing the development of the air traffic control.

One can see here how difficult it is for bus and airline companies when trying to determine whether or not operators of their vehicles are either under the influence or withdrawing from psychiatric medications. This is a law that needs changing. Requesting medical notes from applicants for newer vacancies is, one would imagine, quite simple but it's the current workforce where this proves somewhat difficult.

After negotiations with an employment advisor and my former employers, Land Rover, I was allowed to return to work on light duties. My job was basically checking visitors in and out of the factory. As the call for security lessened I was given plastic sheets to cut. Three guesses what happened next? With a Stanley blade I deliberately cut my hand, not bad enough for stitches as I recall, nonetheless, it required treatment from the on-site occupational health centre. I don't know why I cut myself ~ the whole episode is just a blur. Did I mention that I was taking 40mg of Seroxat at the time? I had reduced the dose for fear of oversleeping and missing my early alarm call for work, also rushing out of the house in the morning to catch my bus to work...and forgetting my box of Seroxat.

So, if the bus driver, Geert Michiels, was taking or withdrawing from Seroxat at the time of the crash his employers, just like my employers, would be none the wiser. Moreover, even if my employers knew I was taking Seroxat chances are they wouldn't have seen it a problem by handing me a Stanley blade given that Seroxat manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline, robustly defend the accusations that Seroxat can cause people to self harm, just as they defend that Seroxat can cause acts of homicide and suicide in adults that take it. What chance did TopTours have?

As I mentioned, TopTours are a small family run business who knew their employees on a personal level. With regard to Michiels here's another extract from De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead...

(Evy is Michiels' wife)

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.

However, this is something that TopTours deny. Here's Tom, TopTours manager, again...

"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."

So, why did Geert Michiels tell his wife he was resigning when in reality he had asked TopTours if he could go full-time for the company?

This extract from De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead...

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)

Further information in De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead, shows evidence where Evy is less than fruitful with the truth. It's author, Douglas De Coninck, told me that Evy also made Geert believe that she was pregnant, only a few days before the crash, however, when Tom and Katia had visited her at her flat in Aarschot weeks after the accident, she told them that she had suffered a miscarriage, adding, "It's better that way."

De Coninck, also told me...

"Evy was instrumental in the split between Geert an his original wife and 4 year old daughter, she also took him to her own doctor who prescribed Geert Seroxat after a 20 minute consultation. They married in September 2011, but Geert wanted to keep that as a secret. Evy was also instrumental in separating him from his family, he hadn't seen or spoken to his brother and parents for over one and a half years.

"Just before the crash he tried to quit Seroxat.
"Earlier in the book, I published text messages I found in the court files, showing how she (Evy) tries to control him day and night. He needs to respond immediately, even if he's on the road in the middle of the night in Italy. On his last shuttle, the one before Sierre, he doesn't answer any of her messages, which drives her wild.

"Geert didn't see his 4 year-old daughter for more than a year, according to family members.

"Evy also made him believe that she was pregnant, only a few days before the crash.

"This is a taboo subject in Belgium and that is why meeting Tom and Katia of Toptours made me so happy. Their testimony was a missing key in my research."

De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead is available only in Dutch print. It's paramount that this book be published in English too and not hid away from the eyes of the world. Hopefully, De Coninck can convince his publishers that the subject matter is of as much importance to English speaking people too.

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.

A huge thank you to Douglas De Coninck for allowing me to republish segments of his book.

This post is dedicated to the 28 people who perished, 22 of them children.

Rust in Vrede.

Bob Fiddaman

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