Pupils caught in tear gas terror attack

EXCLUSIVEBy Patrick LowmanA PARTY of East Anglian schoolchildren has been terrorised by a gang of French robbers who launched a tear gas attack on the hotel where they were staying.


By Patrick Lowman

A PARTY of East Anglian schoolchildren has been terrorised by a gang of French robbers who launched a tear gas attack on the hotel where they were staying.

More than 50 students from Suffolk were caught up in the terrifying robbery - which left three of them needing urgent medical care and the rest frightened and distressed.

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Staff and 55 teenagers from Great Cornard Upper School were nearing the end of a week-long stay in the French capital when the gang of local youths carried out the gas attack.

The three girls who needed medical treatment as a result of the raid - carried out to steal luggage - were seen by doctors at the scene. One needed oxygen, but none of the pupils had to be taken to hospital.

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Several of the year nine pupils, aged 13 and 14, witnessed the robbery and teachers said they had been left shaken and upset by what they had seen.

School headteacher, Mike Foley, said: “This was a very upsetting ordeal for the children.

“It was not something we would have wanted them to see, but it could have happened anywhere and it was not something we could mitigate for.

“The main thing is our staff on the ground did everything right, they took all precautionary measures, sought medical advice and contacted parents.”

The school party were staying in the two-star Hotel Balladins in Villepinte, a western suburb of Paris, when the attack happen last Thursday evening.

A coach full of tourists not linked to the school party had just arrived when the gang, thought to be teenagers, released the gas before stealing luggage from the holidaymakers.

All the Great Cornard pupils were in the hotel at the time and a number were engulfed by the gas - understood to have been tear gas - as it spread through the 57 rooms.

Mr Foley said: “I don't know the exact circumstances of the incident because I wasn't there, but from what I have been told a group of local youths mugged a group of tourists after letting off some kind of gas.

“As the gas spread through the hotel, three of our students were exposed to the gas, making their eyes water. The staff called in a doctor who looked at all three girls to make sure they were okay, but one did need some oxygen.”

The school booked the trip through Galina International School Tours and staff were not happy with the hotel they were given.

“This is the third time we have arranged trips to Paris, but on the last two occasions we stayed in a different hotel,” said Mr Foley.

“We do not feel the hotel this time was adequate for a school party. It wasn't in the best area, it had inadequate dining facilities and there was not much for the children to do.”

The school is reviewing the situation and is holding discussions with the tour company, while Mr Foley said French police were also investigating.

Despite their frightening ordeal, all three children have fully recovered from the effects of the gas and the whole school party returned to England safe and unharmed on Friday.

“Apart from that one incident it had been a very good trip. As a school, we are very tight on security and the staff that were on the trip followed all the correct procedures,” added Mr Foley.

No-one at Galina International School Tours was available for comment last night.


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