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'The bus turned over, I saw boy under it', says driver

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Pic Shows: Bus Driver Gerard Buckley at court yesterday (Thurs) after he gave evidence in the trail of Bus operators Ruari and Raymond McKeown and O'Reilly Commercials.
Re: A vehicle testing firm and the partners of a bus hire company have gone on trial following a school bus crash in Offaly in which 15
year-old student, Michael White died, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, 20-2-13
Pic: Collins Courts.

Pic Shows: Bus Driver Gerard Buckley at court yesterday (Thurs) after he gave evidence in the trail of Bus operators Ruari and Raymond McKeown and O'Reilly Commercials. Re: A vehicle testing firm and the partners of a bus hire company have gone on trial following a school bus crash in Offaly in which 15 year-old student, Michael White died, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, 20-2-13 Pic: Collins Courts.

Pic Shows: Bus Driver Gerard Buckley at court yesterday (Thurs) after he gave evidence in the trail of Bus operators Ruari and Raymond McKeown and O'Reilly Commercials. Re: A vehicle testing firm and the partners of a bus hire company have gone on trial following a school bus crash in Offaly in which 15 year-old student, Michael White died, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, 20-2-13 Pic: Collins Courts.

THE driver of a school bus that crashed, resulting in the death of a boy, has told a court that the bus was due to be serviced a week after the fatal accident.

The owners of the bus have been charged under health and safety laws with failing to maintain the bus, while a vehicle testing firm is charged with failing to note defects in the bus.

Schoolboy Michael White (15) died after the school bus he was travelling in went out of control and flipped over on a bog road just outside Clara, Co Offaly, on April 4, 2006.

Westmeath vehicle testing company O'Reilly Commercials Ltd of Ballinalach, Co Mullingar, is charged with failing to note defects in the 1989 Mercedes bus when they tested it in August 2005.

 

Bang

The owners of Clara Cabs, Raymond and Ruairi McKeown, both of River Street, Clara, Co Offaly are charged with failing to maintain the bus leading to the death of the schoolboy on April 4, 2006. All the accused have denied all the charges.

On the second day of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, bus driver Gerard Buckley said that two weeks before the crash a boy asked him if he had heard a bang from the back of the bus.

He told the student he couldn't hear anything where he was because of the noise of the engine and the radio. Mr Buckley said that he reported the incident to Raymond and Ruairi McKeown, who owned the bus.

He told the court they said they'd check it. He said Raymond McKeown later asked him how the bus was going.

He said: "I was informed that the school holidays were coming up and it would be going in for a service and an overhaul."

He told the court that the school holidays were due to start a week after the accident.

Mr Buckley told Diarmaid McGuinness, defending O'Reilly Commercials Ltd, that he didn't notice the bus tilting to one side and he couldn't explain what would cause that.

Mr Buckley described seeing the back axle coming away from the bus during the crash.

He said: "We were after going down the Rahan road just after the hill and just on the flat spot.

"I heard a bit of a bang and felt a thud.

"I could see the back axle coming away, making its way away from the bus, kind of following me. The bus was going towards the left, the a*** of it going right.

"Next thing I knew I could see the verge going through the windscreen, and then up onto its roof and it came to a stop."

He said he saw some students trying to force the bus door open and he knew that it slid to one side.

He said: "I grabbed it and I think I broke the door in half pulling it. I got everyone out.

"Everyone was dazed or confused. I noticed young Michael White lying under the bus."

Mr Buckley said he made a number of phone calls for help. He said he was later "reluctantly" taken away for medical treatment by emergency services.

Raymond and Ruairi McKeown face six charges of failing to maintain the 89 Mercedes bus in a condition that was safe and without risk to health.

 

fracture

They have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

David O'Reilly, acting on behalf of O'Reilly Commercials Ltd pleaded not guilty to four charges relating to failing to note or verify defects when they tested the Mercedes bus between August 5 and 6, 2005.

The charges include 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.

hnews@herald.ie


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