Family's anguish over coach driver killed in Belgian crash
The family of a bus driver killed in Belgium has said he was a gentleman who was loved by everyone and his death will leave a hole in their lives that will be impossible to fill.
James 'Geordie' Chance's grieving widow Lyn said her late husband, who died in a motorway crash in the Middelkerke area at the weekend, was a "great man".
The father-of-five was a co-driver on the Lisburn-based Richmond Coaches vehicle, which had been hired by a school in England.
Originally from Tyne and Wear, he lived in Lisburn.
His colleague Stephen Cardwell, who is understood to have been driving at the time, remains in hospital where his condition was described as stable.
A 13-year-old boy suffered a fractured skull as a result of the accident which claimed Mr Chance's life, when the coach struck a pillar under a motorway bridge.
Mr Chance, who was in his mid-50s, was believed to have been sitting next to the coach's driver when the fatal accident happened at around 9am on Sunday.
Lyn said her husband was a much-loved family man and that though she was accustomed to him being away, she said she'd really been missing him on this latest trip.
"On Saturday night when he phoned, I said, you know, normally I'm all right but I said, 'I'm really missing you'," she said. I never realised how much I loved him - but I always told him."
Meanwhile, a grandchild expected later this year will be named in his memory.
Mr Chance's daughter Carrie-Anne said her baby girl will be named Georgina after the grandfather she never got to meet.
Carrie-Anne said: "I don't know how we're going to cope without him. We were always used to him being away but we always knew he was coming back."
Mrs Chance said that following news of the accident, which she learned through the bus company, her family endured a period of terrifying "limbo" when they had no idea who had been hurt or killed.
They were left to frantically call a number of organisations to find out before hearing on the television news that a driver had died.
"We were in complete limbo, not knowing who had died," Lyn said.
Richmond Coaches has arranged for Geordie's two sons to travel to Belgium.
Though grief-stricken, Lyn stoically added she was grateful no children had been killed.
"I'd rather it be Geordie than one of the children, and he'd have been that way too," she said.