A North MP has called for tougher laws on seat belts in school buses after a normally-routine school run ended in horror.
Pat Glass, who represents Durham North West, said she was left “shocked and distressed” upon hearing the news that 30 casualties – including 28 children – had been taken to hospital after two school buses collided yesterday morning in Stanley, County Durham.
A major incident was declared in the aftermath of the crash between a yellow double decker and single decker bus involved in the head-on collision on the A693 by the junction with Shield Row Lane, close to Oxhill Youth Centre.
Unlike coaches, public transport buses do not have to be fitted with seatbelts, in accordance with the law.
Ms Glass, who spent 30 years running education services including home to school transport, said it was “completely unacceptable” for buses transporting children not to have seat belts. She told The Journal last night: “Often in these cases, there are three children to a seat, with no seat belts and many are often standing like you would see on an inner-city bus.
“That wouldn’t be acceptable if school transport was provided by the local authority. It just seems to be completely unacceptable when you see accidents like this.
“I understand people have been badly hurt and we’re lucky that no one was killed. These are our children we’re talking about; nothing is more precious. I think it does come down to the cost of fitting seatbelts and we need to look at what this country values. It feels like business not finished and the Government needs to look at a change in the law.”
Emergency services were called after the two buses collided with 50 children on board at around 8.20am yesterday morning.
The children on the buses were pupils from St Bede’s in Lanchester and Tanfield School Comprehensive, aged between 11 and 18. Children on the yellow double decker were travelling to St Bede’s and pupils on the white Stanley Travel Bus were going to Tanfield Comprehensive when the crash happened.
The bus driver of the yellow double decker, a 54-year-old man, had to be cut from his vehicle by fire crews and was flown to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary by the police helicopter with serious injuries to his legs.
A 12-year-old boy, a pupil at Tanfield Comprehensive, was flown by the Great North Air Ambulance to the RVI with serious head injuries.
The driver of the other bus, a 27-year-old man from Newton Aycliffe, was taken to the University Hospital of North Durham with minor injuries. In total 16 children were taken to the University Hospital of North Durham with minor injuries and 11 children went to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Gateshead with minor injuries.
A number of hospitals across the region were called on to treat those injured in the crash with the RVI, the Queen Elizabeth in Gateshead and University Hospital of North Durham in Durham City all taking patients.
The GNAAS were in attendance with the police helicopter to fly the most seriously injured to the RVI.
The ambulance service also had their Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) dealing with the incident, these are paramedics with extra skills. There were four patients transport service crews from the ambulance service helping along with the only consultant paramedic in the North East, Paul Fell.
Durham Police chief inspector Elaine Taylor said that while the incident was serious, it “could have been a lot worse.” “We received a call that two buses taking local children to school had crashed,” she said. “One was on the wrong side of the road. Thorough investigations are now under way by our collision investigation unit.
“A 12-year-old boy suffered facial injuries and was airlifted to hospital. In total 28 people have been taken to hospital, with the majority being checked over ‘just in case,’ but eight are being treated for minor injuries.”
Pupils suffered a mix of injuries, including head and facial injuries, some suffering from neck pain and several with injuries to limbs.
Caroline O’Neill, head of education at Durham County Council, said: “The wellbeing of pupils is our priority and we are working very closely with both school communities to ensure all support needed is offered to the young people involved and to their families.”