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School bus driver jailed after leaving 23 children stranded in flood waters

Graham Jones was jailed for a year for dangerous driving. Credit: PA

An school bus driver who left 23 terrified children stuck on his vehicle in floods has been jailed for the "reckless" act.

Former soldier Graham Jones, 53, ignored two closed road signs to drive into deep waters while carrying pupils aged between 11 and 18 to school in North Yorkshire.

He claimed that he had made a "genuine mistake" at a trial in York Crown Court and was traumatised over the incident after firefighters had to be called in to rescue all those on board.

But the judge told him he had "vaunted arrogance" during the trial after he was found guilty of dangerous driving.

Judge Paul Batty QC said Jones showed no appreciation of the peril he exposed the children to or "the potentially devastating consequences that could have occurred because of your dangerous, your reckless act".

God knows why you drove through and, of course, the inevitable happened.

This was an extremely bad case of dangerous driving. The consequences that could have followed simply do not bear thinking about.

– Judge Paul Batty QC

The court heard that Jones had been carrying the children between two villages in January following floods of "Biblical proportions" in the area.

The driver described how water started pouring in through the side of the bus after he tried to make his way through a large stretch of floodwater.

He some of the teenagers broke a window as he tried to reassure them and urged them to stay on the vehicle until help arrived.

Jones insisted: "I did not put the children's lives in danger. No, I did not class it as dangerous."

Major flooding in and around York last winter. Credit: PA

But the judge rejected much of his evidence - including his claims that he failed to see the signs - saying the weight of evidence against him was overwhelming.

Jones was jailed for 12 months and banned for driving for for years at the sentencing.

Judge Batty also told prosecutors that the quick-thinking teenager who phoned the emergency services from the bus should be identified and granted a £50 reward from public money.

North Yorkshire police said the sentence reflected the potentially dire consequences of Jones' behaviour.

A spokesman added: "It should send a clear warning to drivers not to ignore road closure signs that are put in place to protect people, and to heed the dangers of driving through floodwater."