Driver involved in fatal crash says bus not in 'bad condition'
The driver involved in a fatal school bus crash has told a court that he didn’t think the bus was in bad condition and that his own children would ride the bus.
Ger Buckley was speaking on day three of the trial of Offaly bus company owners, Raymond and Ruairí McKeown, who face charges of failing to maintain the bus under health and safety law. The packed bus went out of control and flipped on a school run on April 4th, 2006. Michael White (15) died after suffering “catastrophic injuries” in the crash.
Mr Buckley said that one schoolchild had previously told him about hearing a bang from the back of the bus and he reported this to the McKeowns.
He told Kenneth Fogarty SC, defending Raymond McKeown, he never noticed the bus as being lopsided and no one had pointed this out to him. If he had been told about the “tilting” along with the banging noise, he would not have driven the bus. “I wouldn’t drive it for fear that exactly what happened would happen.”
He agreed with Caroline Biggs SC, prosecuting, that he was not a qualified mechanic but said he was “pretty sure” he would notice if the bus were lop-sided. “I’d have noticed it when the air was being put it. I’d be pretty sure I’d notice something like that.” He added: “I wouldn’t say it was in bad condition. I carried my own kids on that bus every morning.”
The jury has previously heard evidence from some of the schoolchildren who said they noticed the bus tilting noticeably to one side.
The driver said that after he told the McKeowns about the report of the bang, Raymond McKeown would ask him in passing how the bus was going. He told Mr McKeown it was going fine.
He told the court the upcoming Easter break was an ideal time to put the buses in for a service rather than having them off the road during the school term.
Mr Buckley said the first passenger would normally be Ciara McKeown, Ruairí McKeown’s daughter, as he would pick her up after driving the bus from behind the family home.
He said she would sit in the seat behind the driver but she didn’t get on the bus the morning of the crash. He said that Michael White ended up sitting in that seat that morning.
Clara Cabs owners Raymond and Ruairí McKeown, River Street, Clara, are charged on six counts with failing to maintain the 1989 Mercedes bus, two of which relate to the death of the teenager.
David O’Reilly, acting on behalf of O’Reilly Commercials Ltd, Ballinalach, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, has pleaded not guilty to four charges relating to failing to note or verify defects when they tested the bus between August 5th and 6th, 2005. All the accused have denied all of the charges.