Stagecoach double-decker bus crash driver fined and banned for a year
Watch Richard Lawrence's report
A bus driver who crashed a double-decker while trying to stop his jacket from flying out of a window has been fined £250 and banned from driving for a year.
Plymouth Crown Court heard 21-year-old Kameron Allan was distracted and took his right hand off the steering wheel for around 19 seconds as he tried to grab his jacket and hi-vis vest, which were being sucked out of his open window from a coat hook behind his seat.
The moment Kameron Allan crashed the double-decker bus
He lost control of the Stagecoach bus carrying 56 passengers, and it crashed into hedgerows and rolled into a field near Totnes, Devon.
37 people were injured, ten of them very seriously, but no one died in the crash in October 2019.
The court heard it was only the fourth time Allan had driven a double-decker and that he was a part-time driver, having passed his bus test a few months earlier. He had been driving that day because of staff shortages.
He had denied ten charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, but a trial was halted after he admitted a single count of careless driving.
One of the most seriously injured passengers, Cheryl Russ, told the court she had "never experienced pain I have been suffering because of this collision".
The grandmother said she had not been on a bus since and suffered PTSD: "I miss the person I was before the collision, I miss the old me."
Mr Allan's lawyer Neil Fitzgibbon said of Allan: "He is devastated by what has happened. He is consumed by guilt, regret and full of apology. This incident will haunt him for what has happened."
But he also slammed bus operator Stagecoach, saying: "Stagecoach failed to engage with either the police or the defence in this case. Stagecoach failed these passengers and their employee."
"Stagecoach should never have put this young man in this invidious position.
"He is not a bus driver but is a hobbyist bus driver. He was not employed in that capacity. Stagecoach should not have said to a backroom boy to come and take charge of a double-decker without the familiarisation or supervision of a route. It was madness."
The court was also told the road 'was notorious for accidents', and the landowners had warned the authorities that it was a 'miracle' that a bad accident had not happened but feared there would be a major incident - and that was shortly before the bus crash.
The judge, Recorder Llewellyn Sellick, told Allan of Kendlewood Close, Paignton, Devon that he should have put on the coach's hazard warning lights and slowed to a stop before turning around to sort out the jacket and vest.
He said one 83 -year-old injured passenger needed resuscitating several times, while a 71- year-old woman was placed in an induced coma.
Recorder Sellick said he disagreed with the defence that this was a two-second distraction and said Allan lost control, and the wheels ran over the soft verge on the side of the narrow road and flipped down into the field, landing on its side.
He fined him £250 and banned him from driving for 12 months - which may cost Allan his job as he lives 20 miles from his workplace and there is no reliable transport system, said his lawyer.
In response to today's hearing Mike Watson, Managing Director of Stagecoach South, said:
"Our thoughts today remain with those affected by the accident at Totnes in October 2019 and for their families and loved ones. We are deeply sorry for what happened.
"We are continuing to work with representatives of those who were involved in the accident to progress a number of outstanding claims as speedily as possible as we receive and process the relevant information required.
"Following the accident, we conducted a thorough review of our internal processes and have specifically strengthened oversight and training of employees who operate services on an infrequent basis.
"We can also confirm that an internal disciplinary review is ongoing as a result of the accident and the verdict in today’s court case."
MPC Phil Rooks and Inspector Jane Corkhill of the Alliance Serious Collisions Investigation Team added: "This has been a very lengthy and thorough investigation.
"The actions of Mr Allan that day led directly to a significant number of people being seriously injured and are thoughts go out to them and their families.
"It is vital that all road users consider the actions they take behind the wheel regardless of what they are driving and that even a momentary lapse in concentration can have far-reaching consequences."