Bus driver suffered 'event' at the wheel before coach overturned

Bus driver suffered ‘event’ at the wheel before school coach overturned killing himself and girl, 15, inquest hears

A schoolgirl died after she was partially ejected from her school bus which landed on her after the driver suffered an ‘event’ at the wheel and the vehicle overturned on the motorway, a coroner’s court heard. 

Jessica Baker, 15, suffered ‘instantaneous’ death from ‘catastrophic’ injuries in the school-run coach crash on the northbound M53 near junction five at Hooton on the Wirral last Friday.

Stephen Shrimpton, 40, who was also killed in the accident, was driving the coach taking pupils to two local schools, West Kirby Grammar School and Calday Grange Grammar School.

In addition to the two fatalities, four were to taken to hospital, police said, and they included a 14-year-old boy who suffered life changing injuries.

A total of 52 attended an emergency services training centre, 39 were discharged with no need for further treatment and 13 were treated for minor injuries and released. 

Stephen Shrimpton, 40, who’s believed to have suffered a medical episode at the wheel, died after the bus he was driving mounted the embankment between Junction 5 and 4 of the M56, in Eastham, Wirral, and overturned 

Jessica Baker (pictured), who attended West Kirby Grammar School, died when the coach she was on crashed in Hooton, Cheshire, on Friday morning

The coach was carrying pupils from West Kirby all-girls grammar and Calday Grange all-boys grammar school in Merseyside 

Emergency services were called on Friday after reports of an overturned coach on the northbound M53 near to junction 5 at Hooton, Cheshire

Eyewitnesses described how injured children climbed through windows of the bus to escape from the wreckage.

READ MORE: Teachers to accompany students to reassure them after coach overturned

Police have launched an investigation into the incident and have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

At an inquest opening today, coroner André Rebello said the coach had been travelling northwards when it collided with the embankment and ended up on its side.

‘Given the extent of the collision it’s miraculous there were not more fatalities,’ he said.

He said CTTV footage from inside the bus, he said, showed Mr Shrimpton had suffered ‘an event’ at the wheel at he was seen to ‘slump to his left side’ before the bus the left the carriageway.

Mr Rebello said the ‘likely’ cause of Jessica’s death was a head injury while medical examinations were focused on the Mr Shrimpton’s heart.

He said the precise cause of Jessica’s death will be determined by crash investigators but it appeared she was ‘partially ejected’ from the vehicle which then landed on her causing ‘catastrophic and instantaneous’ head injuries.

Jessica and Mr Shrimpton, both born in Chester, were both pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Rebello said he would be seeking ‘clarity’ about the law regarding the wearing off seatbelts aboard coaches.

He said it was his understanding that from 2001 onwards anyone over the age of 14 was responsible for wearing a seatbelt in buses fitted with them.

Stephen Shrimpton, 40,  (pictured) was driving the coach of more than 50 students when it crashed and flipped onto its side 

A close-up photo of the stricken bus on the side of the M53 motorway on Friday

Mr Rebello said many young people today ‘may not be fully aware’ of the ‘clunk-click’ public information films of the 1970s which highlighted how serious injuries could be prevented by wearing seatbelts.

He intended to write to the Secretary of State for Transpor to get clarity over the wearing over seatbelts on school coaches and ‘unusually’ he will also write a Regulation 28 report – calling for action to prevent further deaths – during the course of the full inquests rather than afterwards, as usual.

Mr Rebello added that it was ‘difficult’ to find information about seatbelt laws by going a Google search.

In a statement, Jessica’s family paid tribute to their ‘warm hearted wonderful daughter, granddaughter and niece, devoted sister and loyal friend.’

They described her as a talented climber, adding: ‘Her untimely death has led to a massive void in our lives that will never be filled.

‘She will be missed by many from not only school but also the climbing community across the country.’

Her school also paid tribute, saying she was ‘unequivocally kind and empathetic… a dedicated friend who was a well-liked and respected member of our school community’.

Father-of-two Mr Shrimpton suffered ‘medical issues’ at the wheel, according to his family.

They said in a statement: ‘Stephen was a loving husband and father to his wife and his wonderful children, a caring and thoughtful man who would always prioritise others over himself.

‘Stephen will be sadly missed by all his friends and family.’

A fundraising page set up for him has so far raised more than £20,000.

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