Police vow to find out why coach full of children veered off the a10 into ditch

Emergency services at the scene of a coach crash on the A10 near Hilgay - A coach turns up to take children away from the area. Picture: Matthew Usher. Emergency services at the scene of a coach crash on the A10 near Hilgay - A coach turns up to take children away from the area. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Thursday, July 24, 2014
10:02 AM

Police have vowed to find out why a coach full of children veered off the A10 into a ditch.

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Forty-two primary school children and five teachers escaped unharmed when a bus taking them to Hunstanton overturned at Hilgay, on Tuesday afternoon.

Chief Insp Chris Spinks, head of Norfolk roads policing, said specialist officers were still investigating the collision.

“The serious collision team is dealing with it,” he said. “Although there were no injuries to speak of, the potential was there for it to become a really serious incident, so we want to get to the bottom of it.

“The fact they all had seatbelts on has contributed to the fact there have been no injuries. It’s gone on over on its side, the children on the top side could have fallen or been thrown about inside – it doesn’t bear thinking about.”

It is not yet clear why the bus left the road.

One child who was on the coach, six-year-old Libby Hill, said: “The wheel of the coach hit a rock and then we fell into a ditch and the windscreen smashed. My chair was above me and I was sort of upside down.”

The driver of the vehicle, owned by Royston-based Richmond’s, had to be cut free from his cab and was taken to hospital to be treated for suspected back injuries.

Roy Harold, Norfolk’s deputy chief firefighter, dreads to think what might have happened had the 42 primary school children on board not been wearing seatbelts.

“When you receive a call that says a coach party of children has crashed an overturned in a ditch, that’s potentially a very serious incident,” said Mr Harold, who was meeting colleagues from the Leicestershire fire service at Thetford, when he herard of the crash.

“It was potentially an incredibly serious incident, very frightening for the kids and parents but one which had a good outcome.”

The coach was one of a convoy of three carrying pupils from the William Westley Primary from Whittlesford, near Cambridge, to the seaside for an end-of-term trip.

After leaving the road, it rolled into a ditch.

“It was a very large ditch, capable of swallowing a coach with room to spare,” said Mr Harold.

“For everybody to be got out without serious injury is very good news. Every fire service in the country is a strong advocate of seatbelts because they save lives.”

Seatbelts are compulsory on all coaches registered after 2001. Drivers are obliged to check that children on board are wearing them.

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said: “All children are required to wear seatbelts and it is up to the driver to check. This has been the case for years and there are not many older buses about without seatbelts. All buses these days have seatbelts.”

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “It is down to the school themselves to ensure that risk assessments are carried out to take children on buses.”

Could we do more to make school transport safe? Email chris.bishop@archant.co.uk

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