Mother describes horror of bus crash experienced by daughter

PUBLISHED: 09:18 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:25 30 January 2020

Damage to the top of the 444 Stephenson's School Bus which crashed on January 13

Damage to the top of the 444 Stephenson's School Bus which crashed on January 13

Archant

A mother who rushed to the scene of the school bus crash where her daughter and other children were injured has described what she saw and how the children took control.

A mother who rushed to the scene of the school bus crash where her daughter and other children were injured has described what she saw and how the children took control.

She was close by when her daughter phoned her.

"I was the first adult on the scene apart from the bus driver. Another parent, arrived immediately after me.

"I noticed the children were milling around outside the front of the bus in the drizzle, all across the road, blocked by the bus - on a corner making it unsafe as cars travelling towards it from the Elmdon/Chrishall direction were unaware of the blockage.

"Many of the children were shaking from the shock and the cold and visibly upset.

"The two most injured children were sitting on the wet curb, shaking quite uncontrollably.

"A year 11 pupil from Joyce Frankland Academy, Newport, who had trained in first aid with the air cadets, had done an excellent job stemming their bleeding.

I am a first aider and I checked them both for concussion, checked their mum was on the way and then got them into my car where they could get warm and dry.

"The first aider told me an ambulance had been called. When their Mum arrived, we agreed to drive them straight to Addenbrooke's A&E rather than wait for an ambulance.

One child had a deep gash to her forehead that has now been glued and butterfly stitched. The other has a very long cut running down the side of his head. He had four stitches.

"I waited with the other children who were all getting extremely cold, some were very anxious. I made sure they moved to the layby by the side of the road for safety. The bus driver did not get involved at all - he appeared to be on his phone throughout.

"He did not once offer any assistance or show any concern either to me, to the teenage first-aider, to any other parents who arrived or to the children. I did not see him speak to school staff.

"The driver stayed at the rear end of the bus with his back to everyone else on his mobile phone. I believe he was talking to Stephensons. Either he had no first aid kit on board or was unaware of where it was.

"I waited at the scene until all but the last child had been collected, who had assured me that someone was on their way to collect him. By then, there were teachers there from both schools.

"When we got home, I assessed my daughter who had remained stoic and helpful throughout, but was very emotional later in the evening when the realisation of the situation hit home.

"She had a number of small cuts to her hand and wrist, some glass in the sole of her foot that we removed and the GP has confirmed whiplash as her neck and head are both sore. Another parent told me his daughter has quite a bump on her head and a sore back.

"I can't speculate on the cause of the accident. My daughter heard two very loud bangs with a few seconds between them. After the second bang it was as if it were an emergency stop.

She didn't hear the bus driver asking if the children on the upper deck were okay or see him coming up to offer support. The older boys upstairs from both schools took control and moved the younger children downstairs. The first aider had to ask the driver to open his doors and she provided first aid herself.

No child travelling on a bus should be expected to take control. Why did the bus driver not understand emergency procedures?

"Although I appreciate that he may have been in shock, he still had the wherewithal to be on his phone. Unless he was calling an ambulance, this was not an appropriate response.

"The next morning, my husband happened to follow the 444 bus through Chrishall after it had picked up the children by Chrishall Primary School and was heading towards Elmdon.

The bus was travelling at 37-38mph through a 30mph zone in the village. I have seen the bus travelling at this speed several times myself. I have also been forced to the side of the road on several occasions by the 444 bus when it was travelling dangerously fast around narrow country lanes and tight, sometimes blind, bends.

If Stephenson's drivers have to travel that fast to fulfil their service, I suggest the company re-consider their bus routes.

Essex County Council needs to decide what is most important, saving money or safety.

"Many of the children are now terrified at travelling on the bus again."


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