Driver and operator convicted after boy’s coach fall

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An operator and driver have both been found guilty of offences after a 13-year-old boy fell from the emergency exit of a coach as it negotiated a roundabout at Avonmouth end of the M49.

Keith Jones Coaches proprietor of Keith Jones, and driver Tudor West, both of Bridgend, were tried by Bristol Crown Court last month.

The court heard the boy, a member of Tondu youth rugby team travelling to a match in Burnham-on-Sea, leaned on the exit door and it swung open. Incredibly, he escaped from the May 2014 incident with a broken wrist.

West, 62, said he had inspected the door of the 14-year-old Berkhof coach that morning. He had told passengers to use the seat belts but they “had not put them on.”

The boy who fell admitted he had been standing and leaning on the door when it opened.

DVSA inspectors subsequently found the door would open easily under pressure, and the latch had been treated to ‘a bodge’ repair. The boy, who cannot be named, could not have operated the door himself, as the latch could not be reached from his seat.

West, a coach driver of over 10 years’ experience and with no previous convictions, was convicted of dangerous driving.

The coach had passed its annual test a month before, but an inspection had found nine defects including panels and a mirror held on with tape and an internal locker secured with a pen.

Although defence barrister Christopher James told the jury that the coach had been passed as fit for use and there could not have been a pre-existing defect, Jones, 63, was found guilty of aiding and abetting dangerous driving.

The prosecution said both men had “ignored an obvious risk that could have had tragic consequences.” They will be sentenced later this month.