School bus crash sends children to hospital

PUBLISHED: 09:12 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:30 30 January 2020

Stephensons bus

Stephensons bus

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A school bus crash, sending children cut and bleeding to hospital with the top of the bus “opened like a tin” is now among FIFTY-PAGES of complaints against the bus company.

A school bus crash, sending children cut and bleeding to hospital with the top of the bus "opened like a tin" is now among FIFTY PAGES of complaints against the bus company.

The children were on their way home from Saffron Walden County High School and The Joyce Frankland Academy when the bus hit a tree in Littlebury Green.

After the accident on Monday, January 13, eyewitnesses say the driver left children to help each other.

Locals say that the very next day, the route, a Stephenson's 444, was seen speeding along country lanes and around blind bends.

The 444 is a regular route for the pupils. After the impact, the older children helped the younger ones down from the top of the bus.

Meanwhile, an eyewitness said the driver paid them no attention - not even offering a first aid kit. First aid was carried out by a teenager who had learned incident management with the air cadets.

Now there are calls for Stephenson's, to be placed under "immediate and robust review". At the weekend, the 50-page dossier was sent to Essex County Council, responsible for licensing buses.

Councillor Colin Day, a former London police officer now responsible for community safety at Uttlesford District Council, said: "This review should be robust. We shall be like a rottweiler round their ankles."

The R4U member said: "We have spoken to parents and seen pictures of the damage to the roof of the bus.

"We understand that a number of students suffered head injuries and wounds to their hands and feet. We also have reports of a bus from the same company damaging parked cars in Great Chesterford a few days later.

"Residents have reported other incidents, involving pupil safety. Incidents have been reported to us through letters, emails and Facebook. It is a catalogue of driver behaviour."

The bus company has said the bus served to avoid an on-coming car and that the driver was later treated for shock.

"There are complaints about the way they drive, dropping children in isolated places, going off route and allegations of failing to stop after damage-only accidents. It's a catalogue of events. We are treating these incidents very seriously and have written to Essex County Council, who oversee local school bus services.

"We've asked them to urgently start an investigation.

Cllr Day added: "The county has significantly cut school bus funding over the past few years and has not made seat belts a requirement for school buses. We understand that because of cuts councils are demanding value for money but anyone carrying passengers has a duty of care - especially when the passengers are children.

"There are always two sides to the story. It's been suggested that it's difficult to see overhanging branches on double deckers - there have been double decker buses in the UK since the Second World War, if the driver can't see on the nearside ahead of him, there's a design fault on the bus - it was like it had been opened with a can opener."

A spokesperson for Essex County Council, said: "The safety and wellbeing of all children is our priority and we have worked closely with Stephensons to understand how these incidents occurred."

We have not been made aware of any of the additional complaints in relation to Stephensons. All complaints on operational matters should be directed to the bus company. Speeding allegations should be reported to Essex Police.

In a statement, Bill Hiron, managing director of Stephensons of Essex, said: "We carry many thousands of students to schools and colleges every day. Safety is our number one priority.

"One of our double deck buses was involved in a collision with an overhanging tree branch in Littlebury Green on January 13.

"We have carried out a full investigation, using CCTV, GPS tracking and Driver telematics units fitted to our buses, as well as our local management team at the scene both on the evening of the accident and in daylight the next day.

"The bus was not speeding. It was doing 28-31mph on a 60mph road. Daylight was fading and there had been heavy wind and rain over the previous days. CCTV shows that a car came in the opposite direction, and the bus moved toward the left of the road.

"There was no sharp braking (this would be picked up by the telematics system). A large branch was across the carriageway at approximately 12 feet above ground level, presumably brought down by the weather conditions. The driver was concentrating on the road and passing car, and in the fading light, would not have seen a tree branch at upper deck level. Unfortunately, the branch hit the nearside upper deck and injured two children.

"The driver called the emergency services, but the two injured children were taken to hospital by their parents before the ambulance arrived. We are all deeply sorry that this happened, and both received stitches for minor cuts. However, we have maintained contact with the parents, and are pleased to report that both are now back at school.

"A replacement bus was sent from our Haverhill depot, but given the distance and traffic conditions, took an hour to arrive. The police attended and, we understand, are not taking any action against the driver who was taken away by ambulance suffering from shock. Our investigations conclude that he was not driving in an unsafe manner or one that caused this unfortunate incident.

"Using the GPS/telematics system, we also checked the speeds of the 444 the following day. The maximum speed the bus travels at through Chrishall is 24.2mph. In Great Chishill, on its way out of the village, it gets up to 27.3mph. In both places the limit is 30mph. Thus there is no evidence of speeding here either.

Readers may rest assured that we are totally committed to safe operation, while providing vital local services across many rural areas of Essex."


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