Thursday 18 December 2014

Owner pleads guilty in failure to maintain bus involved in schoolboy's death

Niamh O’Donoghue and Declan Brennan

Published 28/02/2013 | 13:06

Raymond McKeown pleaded guilty to failing to maintain a school bus that was later involved in a fatal crash
Raymond McKeown pleaded guilty to failing to maintain a school bus that was later involved in a fatal crash

THE owner of an Offaly bus hire company has pleaded guilty to failing to maintain a school bus that was later involved in a fatal crash.

A separate charge that alleged the owner’s failure had caused the death of school boy Michael White (15) has being dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The bus crashed on a bog road just outside Clara, Co Offaly, on April 4, 2006, when the back axle came away and the bus flipped over. Mr White died as a result of “catastrophic injuries” suffered in the crash.

The owners of Clara Cabs, Raymond and Ruairi McKeown, both of River Street, Clara had pleaded not guilty to six counts of failing to maintain the 1989 Mercedes bus, two of which say this failure led to the death of the school boy on April 4, 2006.

David O'Reilly, acting on behalf of O'Reilly Commercials Ltd of Ballinalack, 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 5 and 6, 2005.

Today Raymond McKeown pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to failing to maintain the bus in a condition that was safe and without risk to the health and welfare of persons other than his employees.

He had pleaded not guilty to two other charges. The first was failing to maintain the bus in a safe condition, as a consequence of which Michael White suffered personal injuries and died on April 4, 2006.

The second charge was failing to maintain the bus in a condition that was safe and without risk to the health and welfare of employees. Both these charges have being withdrawn.

Judge Margaret Heneghan told the jury that Raymond McKeown had pleaded guilty to one of the counts and a nolle prosequi had been entered in relation to the remaining five. His case will be mentioned on April 8 next to set a sentencing date.

The judge said Ruairi McKeown had been discharged from the indictment and the trial continues in relation to O’ Reilly Commercials Limited and the four remaining counts tomorrow morning.

In detail, the four  charges against O'Reilly Commercials Ltd are failing to note and failing to verify as safe the modified rear suspension in the bus, failing to note the missing bolt in the right rear suspension spring of the bus, and failing to take account of a fracture in the chassis.

The offences come under the 1989 and 2005 Safety Health and Welfare at Work Acts.

The jury have previously heard evidence that days before the crash the driver of the bus told Raymond McKeown that one school child had complained about hearing a noise in the back of the bus.

Mr McKeown told gardai that he believed the noise was just a shock absorber going over a bump over the road. He told the driver he would replace the shocks on the bus during the upcoming Easter break, a week after the accident.

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