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Bay tragedy man promotes ski trips

Company owner denies using misleading endorsements. Joseph Lee reports.

One of the men linked to a holiday company found guilty of the UK's first corporate manslaughter case has been using potentially misleading endorsements from schools to promote skiing trips.

Chris Reynard was a major shareholder in the company fined pound;60,000 over the deaths of four teenagers on a canoeing trip in Lyme Bay, Dorset, in 1993. He was banned from holding directorships until 2006 after another company he ran became insolvent.

The 63-year-old now works with Skiing Europe, which organises trips for parties of teachers and pupils. The company promotes its services with enthusiastic endorsements from 12 schools, colleges and local education authorities.

John Askew, from the county borough of Bootle, is quoted in a brochure on the company's website saying: "We feel that your organisation has achieved great things in laying on such a perfect weekend."

But the borough of Bootle was abolished in 1974. Mr Askew is not known at its successor, Sefton council.

Lynda Corrie, headteacher at Sherrardswood school in Hertfordshire, said she would make a complaint against the company after she learned her school's name was being used to endorse the trips.

She said Sherrardswood had not run a skiing trip for more than eight years, while Dorset-based Skiing Europe has existed only since 2001. "We are not happy at all that they are using our name in this way," she said.

The TES spoke to six of the organisations quoted, which all raised similar concerns.

Mr Reynard said all the endorsements were genuine, but admitted that many were out of date and referred to a different company, Ski Europe, which had been sold in 1994.

"You get some changes over the years, but it's the same team, the same organisation," he said.

His solicitors added in a statement: "At the time the material was written Mr Reynard took careful advice, and was told that any comments written directly to him as the owner of Ski Europe, he is perfectly entitled to use as the owner of Skiing Europe.

"There is nothing whatsoever misleading in the points you raised and Mr Reynard appears to have acted completely properly."

Companies House records say that the owner of the only two shares in Skiing Europe Ltd is its sole director, Iwona Nowicka.

Mr Reynard says he has provided activity holidays for about 40 years. He held 6,000 shares in Active Learning and Leisure, the company which organised the Lyme Bay canoe trip and which boasted of an excellent safety record.

Its managing director was jailed for two years for manslaughter in 1994, but Mr Reynard did not have responsibility for the centre's activities and was not implicated in the deaths.

In the same year, a county council inspection of a Dorset activity centre owned by Mr Reynard found "some appalling practice which was totally unsafe" in abseiling activities.

Skiing Europe says in its brochure that it is a team of "expert and BASI-qualified ski instructors". BASI refers to the British Association of Snowsport Instructors.

The TES was only able to verify the credentials of Mr Reynard, who is registered with BASI. He refused to supply a list of instructors whose qualifications could be checked.

A Dorset council spokeswoman said trading standards officers could investigate. She said: "If we receive complaints about any problems such as this, we will always investigate."

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