The IRU Grand Prix d’Honneur is awarded posthumously to Karen Verbrugge, a 55-year old bus driver and hero from the Belgium company De Lijn.
On November 25, 2015, Karen was on duty when her bus was forced to take a detour from her normal route due to road works. The bus got stuck on a crossing that was not designed for such a vehicle.
After unsuccessfully trying to manoeuver the bus off of the tracks, she opened the doors and escorted all passengers outside to safety, returning to the bus to free it from the tracks when the crossing signals activated. Despite the train driver’s activation of the emergency brakes, the train struck the bus. Karen Verbrugge was killed, after having saved the lives of all the passengers.
IRU is extremely proud to honour Karen’s life-saving efforts with the IRU Grand Prix d’Honneur. She epitomises the spirit of the award, which is given every two years to a professional driver or a personality who, through his/her moral and professional qualities, performed an act of exceptional bravery in the exercise of his/her duties.
There were six nominees for the award during this selection process. All were strong candidates, but an international jury, including the IRU President and the IRU Secretary General, selected Karen Verbrugge.