Bus driver who injured 41 students crashing into railway bridge jailed

Bus driver, 37, who left three pupils seriously injured and another 38 hurt when double decker smashed into railway bridge after he ignored warnings that it was too low is jailed for three years

  • Martin Walker pleaded guilty to charges of causing injury by dangerous driving
  • Bus was carrying 74 students to Henry Beaufort School in Winchester at moment of horror crash
  • Some pupils left with wounds which may never heal while many left traumatised
  • Judge Angela Morris sentenced Walker to three years at Winchester Crown Court 

Martin Walker, 37, pleaded guilty to three charges of causing injury by dangerous driving at Winchester Crown Court 

A bus driver who injured 41 pupils when he crashed a double-decker school bus into a railway bridge has been jailed for three years.

Martin Walker, 37, left three youngsters seriously injured and many more ‘traumatised’ when the roof of the bus was completely ripped off. 

The court heard how the most seriously injured have wounds that may never heal and that one girl had since tried to kill herself as a result of mental health struggles following the incident. 

Walker had been ferrying a total of 74 students to Henry Beaufort School in Winchester, Hampshire, when the terrifying crash occurred on September 10 last year. 

He pleaded guilty to three charges of causing injury by dangerous driving. 

Sentencing at Winchester Crown Court, Judge Angela Morris told him: ‘The entire roof of the bus was effectively sliced off by your actions, with the result that those students on the upper deck were left with varying degrees of injuries and trauma.

‘It’s clear that many of those young passengers were left injured, traumatised and distraught on that morning.

‘In respect of the three students who fell victim to the most serious injuries, it is clear that each of them has been permanently scarred, both physically and emotionally, as a result of your dangerous behaviour.’

One of the most injured students told of how her dreams to become a model had been dashed by her injuries. 

The 16-year-old girl suffered a deep cut to her face which required surgery for nerve damage, forcing her to give up her ambitions.

She told the court: ‘I have a droop in my lip so at the beginning I struggled to keep food and drink in my mouth, which was so embarrassing.

The Stagecoach school bus underneath a railway bridge in Winchester after its roof was ripped clean off, injuring 41 students, three of them seriously 

The bus had to be pulled from the railway bridge by a tow truck following the horror crash in September last year 

Teen tells of dashed dreams and suicide attempt after horror bus crash caused nerve damage

A 16-year-old girl who was among the  seriously injured when her school bus crashed into a railway bridge revealed how she suffered ‘dark days’, had run away from home and even tried to take her own life.

The teenager was one of three victims listed in charges against bus driver Martin Walker, who has been jailed for three years.

Walker admitted three charges of causing injury by dangerous driving while driving 74 pupils aged between 11 and 16 to Henry Beaufort School in Winchester, Hampshire, on September 10 last year.

The 16-year-old victim suffered a deep cut to her face which required surgery for nerve damage, an injury which has forced her to give up her ambition to be a model.

She said: ‘As a result of the nerve damage I have a droop in my lip so at the beginning I struggled to keep food and drink in my mouth, which was so embarrassing.

‘My plan was to start a modelling career but how could I do that now with a scar all down my face.’

She added that she has been unable to attend school since the crash apart from for exams, and would not be able to take up a place at a fashion college, saying her ‘future career has been ruined.’  

The second victim, a 15-year-old girl, said: ‘The noise of the roof being ripped off, the darkness, the flying glass and the sounds of people screaming is something I will never forget.

‘For a time I thought I was going to die.’

She also underwent surgery for nerve damage caused by cuts to her face, and added: ‘It’s horrible to think I may never get all the movement back and I may never be able to smile properly again.

‘Every time I look in the mirror it takes me back to the crash.’

The third victim, a 14-year-old boy, described how he suffered a deep cut to his eyebrow which has required surgery for nerve damage.

He said he had been forced to give up playing football because he cannot head the ball and he also now suffers from anxiety.

In a statement read to Winchester Crown Court, he said: ‘I do feel I have been less confident in socialising since the crash, I spend more time in my room and can be short-tempered.

‘The circumstances from that day will stay with me forever, every time I look in the mirror I am reminded.’

 

‘My plan was to start a modelling career but how could I do that now with a scar all down my face?

‘I am a 16-year-old girl who is conscious about her appearance, my future career has been ruined and it’s really difficult for me to deal with scars on my face.

‘This was meant to be one of the best years of your life instead of which it was the worst year of my life, I couldn’t go back to school, I couldn’t face everyone looking at me reminding me of that day.’

She admitted her mental health struggles from the incident caused her to run away from home and at one point attempt suicide. 

Meanwhile, a 14-year-old boy who suffered nerve damage to his eyebrow was forced to give up football as he can no longer head the ball. 

He told the court: ‘The circumstances from that day will stay with me forever, every time I look in the mirror I am reminded.’ 

Another 15-year-old female victim said: ‘The noise of the roof being ripped off, the darkness, the flying glass and the sounds of people screaming is something I will never forget.

‘For a time I thought I was going to die.’

She also suffered severe cuts to her face and may never be able to fully smile again. 

She added: ‘It’s horrible to think I may never get all the movement back and I may never be able to smile properly again.

‘Every time I look in the mirror it takes me back to the crash.’

Nicholas Cotter, prosecuting, told the court that Stagecoach employee Walker had been driving the route for the first time when he had taken a wrong turn without realising.

He then proceeded to drive the 13ft 11in high bus under the 12ft bridge in Wellhouse Lane at a speed of 10mph.

Mr Cotter said: ‘This is an experienced man who should have known the size of his vehicle and the responsibilities he had driving it.

‘The defendant seemingly paid no heed to the height restriction signage that was in place en route to the bridge.

‘A number of students spotted they were going the wrong way and voiced their concerns, and it appears some of them were beginning to shout that it wasn’t going to fit under the bridge.

‘Sadly these pleas were seemingly not heard.’

Mr Cotter said Walker had had time to assess the bridge as he had to wait for an oncoming vehicle to pass before he proceeded.

He added: ‘The incident caused the entirety of the roof of the bus to be removed and those in vehicles behind saw the top of the bus drop on the floor in front of them.

‘It is frightfully lucky that more harm was not done.’

He said one schoolgirl described the bus as ‘powering through the tunnel’.

He added: ‘She recalls the children sitting in front of her ducking down as the roof of the bus collapsed in towards her.

‘She recalls screaming and shouting and people jumping off the side of the bus to get off.’

Mr Cotter said the three victims to whom the charges related – the 14-year-old boy and two girls, aged 15 and 16 – had undergone surgery to repair nerve damage caused by deep facial cuts which might never heal.

He added that they continue to suffer anxiety, with one of the girls saying she had tried to kill herself.

The prosecutor also listed the injuries of another 15 students, which included cuts, bruises and whiplash, and said a total of 41 children had been hurt.

Neil Fitzgibbon, defending, said Walker was diagnosed with learning difficulties and dyslexia as a child but until this accident had been a ‘careful and diligent driver’.

He said the defendant had only been given a ‘partial familiarisation’ trip on the route by his supervisors at Stagecoach and should have been given more training because of his learning disabilities.

Mr Fitzgibbon said: ‘He believed he was on the right route and everything he was doing had been risk-assessed by Stagecoach.’

He added: ‘Since this accident he has been consumed with remorse, the very idea that he has caused such pain to others by his action is deeply distressing to him.’

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details. 

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