Bus driver pleads guilty to M5 crash

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…But Police tell CBW no investigation into as yet unknown vehicle operator

A bus driver has pleaded guilty to two counts of death by dangerous driving following a collision on the M5 near Birmingham in March.

Jasminder Dhesi, aged 50 and from Great Barr, entered his plea at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday (January 15).

Following the incident at around 0630hrs on March 24, investigators said the bus had broken down in the inside lane of the southbound M5 between J3 & 4 near Frankley Services, in thick fog.

Wrongly described in other sections of the media as a coach rather than a bus, the Alexander PS-bodied Volvo B10M was run by an as yet unknown operator.

Birmingham Crown Court heard Dhesi, who was taking fruit pickers to a farm in the Evesham area, decided to continue with the journey even though the bus had already broken down twice on the trip. A lorry then ploughed into the back of it when it conked out for the third time.

Neil Bannister, prosecuting, said Dhesi “knew his vehicle was in difficulty and the conditions were foggy but he took the decision to carry on with his journey”.

He continued: “The vehicle had only reached the speed of 25mph when it broke down again for the third and fateful time.”

Liaquat Ali, 35, was a passenger on the bus and died at the scene. Lorry driver William Mapstone, 65, died in hospital later in the day.

Dhesi was released on bail until February 12, but Judge Peter Carr warned him to expect jail.

Asked by CBW to confirm the name of the operator, a spokesman for West Midlands Police (WMP) replied: “Our case was against the driver, so we are not sure whether we should be disclosing information about the operator in case it was not mentioned in court.”

The spokesman also confirmed there was no investigation into the operator. “While WMP led the investigation, VOSA was also involved,” he said.

Asked why the operator was not investigated into, the spokesman replied: “Our investigation centred on the driver as he had broken down, pulled onto the hard shoulder. He managed to get the bus re-started so chose to continue.”

Sergeant Chris Jones, from the regional Collision Investigation Unit, explained the matter further, when he said: “Mr Dhesi’s bus was not roadworthy on the day of the crash and he should not have been driving it.

“He had already broken down on two occasions before the collision happened and had managed to pull over onto the hard shoulder and get the vehicle moving again.

“Despite the fog and the unreliability of the bus he carried on with the journey, but came unstuck on the third breakdown, when there was no hard shoulder to pull over on to.

“The broken down bus came to a stop in a live lane of traffic, when it was hit by Mr Mapstone’s lorry. The result was a catastrophic scene, with many people injured and the loss of two lives.

“This has been a complex and lengthy investigation and we’re pleased that Mr Dhesi has pleaded guilty to the charges.”

As this issue went to press, a spokeswoman for VOSA said the agency would look into the matter and get back to CBW.