“I’m so sorry” - driver in school bus bridge crash

A SCHOOL bus driver who smashed a double decker into a low bridge – injuring terrified pupils and ripping off the roof – has been disqualified for a year.

Wayne Oliver was handed the ban and an £80 fine for the horror crash which saw shocked youngsters make a lucky escape and two seriously hurt teens needing facial surgery.

The TM Travel bus hit a railway bridge on Whittington Road, Barrow Hill, at around 8.30am on March 15. Chesterfield magistrates heard Oliver, 38, said he had been told by depot colleagues that the bus was fine to drive on that route. But staff denied he had asked about the course – which he had driven once previously in a single decker – before setting off 20 minutes late as a vehicle fault had been attended to. The court heard there was a 13.3ft height bridge sign and a notice in the bus, which read in “bold underlined capitals ‘double decker bus must not operate direct between Barrow Hill and New Whittington due to bridge’”

No contributing vehicle defects were found on the 4.4 metre high bus. Prosecutor Bill Taylor said rumours Oliver, of Laughton Road, Dinnington, was speeding or driving unsafely were unfounded.

Mr Taylor added: “The tragedy is that he took no notice of the notice on the bus or the sign on the bridge, which are two things which ought to have warned him that the bus wouldn’t get under.”

In total 18 pupils – some wearing uniforms spattered with classmates’ blood – were taken to hospital after the crash, most with minor injuries.

Oliver pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention. He sent a letter to court saying he was sorry and deeply regretted the incident. Deputy district judge Dave Goodman told him: “I have to deal with you for the matter of carelessness, not consequences,

“If I was dealing with you for the consequences you would probably go to prison.”

Oliver had his employment terminated following the crash. Speaking outside court, he said only: “I’m sorry for everything.” He was also ordered to pay £35 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

TM Travel – based in Sheffield – had no comment. A Derbyshire County Council spokesman said the 144 service remained suspended awaiting the outcome of a VOSA investigation.

ellen.beardmore@derbyshiretimes.co.uk