Driver sentenced over fatal crash

Published: Friday 14th November 2014 by The News Editor

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A minibus driver will be sentenced today following a motorway crash which left one young woman dead and many of her friends injured.

Bethany Jones, 18, was travelling with a group of friends to a hen party in Liverpool when the bus they were in was hit from behind by an articulated lorry on the M62 in West Yorkshire.

A jury heard last month how the minibus, driven by James Johnson, had mechanical problems and was travelling extremely slowly along the motorway when the crash happened.

That jury found the lorry driver – Kevin Ollerhead, 45, of Lincoln Crescent, St Helens, Merseyside – not guilty of causing the death of Miss Jones by dangerous driving after a trial at Leeds Crown Court.

Johnson, 64, of Whytecote End, Wyke, Bradford, pleaded guilty to the same charge at an earlier hearing and is due to be sentenced at the same court.

Miss Jones was among a group of 20 women when the crash happened on the westbound carriageway near Pontefract.

She died after suffering multiple injuries. All of the other passengers on the coach, who were from the Pontefract area, were injured, some severely.

The trial heard that the collision happened on April 26 last year after the 24-seater coach suffered mechanical problems and came to a “near standstill” on the motorway.

The coach left South Elmsall, near Pontefract, at 11.06am to travel to Liverpool for a hen do ahead of the wedding of Stefanie Firth.

The passengers on the bus quickly became aware of signs of mechanical failure, including a smell of burning, and asked Johnson to stop the vehicle.

He did stop the bus, which had a badly burnt-out clutch, and made a brief examination but said he could not find a problem and continued the journey.

The speed of the coach gradually slowed to a crawl until it was travelling at just 5.5mph in the nearside lane of the M62, just after junction 32, near Pontefract.

Mr Ollerhead, who was driving his lorry at 52mph, crashed into the back of the bus, shunting it 50 yards along the road and into a barrier, leaving it lying on its side across an exit slip road.

He told the court he was a professional driver and there was nothing he could have done to avoid the accident.

Published: Friday 14th November 2014 by The News Editor

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