Coach driver who fell asleep at the wheel escapes jail

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Ross Ogilvie given 18 month suspended sentence after being convicted of dangerous driving

A school coach driver who crashed when he fell asleep at the wheel has escaped an immediate jail term, The Guardian has reported.

Ross Ogilvie was driving the private hire coach, operated by Royston-based Richmond’s, carrying children on a school trip when he crashed into a ditch near Hilgay in Norfolk last year. He admitted dangerous driving at an earlier hearing and accepted he had fallen asleep.

Rachel Cushing, prosecuting, told Norwich crown court that Ogilvie had told police who attended the crash that he felt tired after arriving home from a ‘boys holiday’ about 24 hours earlier.

42 children were on board when the coach overturned. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured.

Sentencing him to six months in prison suspended for 18 months, recorder John Akast said he had seen reports showing Ogilvie had tried to take his own life in the aftermath of the incident.

“If, for example, there had been the slightest suggestion of speed or erratic driving beforehand, you’d go straight to prison,” John Akast said.

“This is a big public service vehicle with children in it and that imposes an enormous responsibility on people. I’m quite satisfied that, up to the point you drifted off, you were driving perfectly normally.

“Above all, you realised what you had done at once, and some people don’t and try to blame the vehicle or the weather or something like that.”

The judge also ordered Ogilvie to carry out 200 hours of community service and pay £500 in compensation and £350 in costs. He disqualified Ogilvie from driving for 18 months.

The children, aged between five and 11 from William Westley primary school in Cambridgeshire, were travelling as part of a convoy of coaches on a trip to the seaside resort of Hunstanton on July 22, 2014. Six adults were also on board.

Ogilvie was cut free and taken by ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in King’s Lynn with minor back injuries, while several children were treated for shock at the scene. One child was also taken to hospital as a precaution because of a pre-existing medical condition.

Another driver described seeing the coach veer towards the ditch and with no sign of braking.

Rachel Cushing said: “Mr Ogilvie said he started to feel tired and, after missing one lay-by, decided to carry on to the next. He remembered waking as the bus went into a bush and the sound of children screaming.”

Jenni Dempster, mitigating, said Ogilvie had since begun a new career as a chef and had no desire to work as a driver again. “This was a horrendous experience for those on board, especially the children. He didn’t want to stop the coach because he didn’t want to let anyone down,” she said.

“He was inexperienced and has now left driving as a career, and he feels genuine remorse. It is a matter he will never forget for the rest of his life.”