Snow coach crash inquiry

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Accounts from teachers and coach driver at odds in Fatal Accident Inquiry

The driver of a coach which crashed in a blizzard and killed a teenage schoolgirl asked teachers to consider cancelling the trip, a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) at Lanark Sheriff Court heard.

According to The Herald, Raymond Munro, 63, was at the wheel of a coach taking pupils from Lanark Grammar School to Alton Towers on March 31, 2010.

As reported in CBW at the time, the coach carrying 39 pupils and staff crashed, claiming the life of 17-year-old Natasha Paton. The vehicle was operated by Lanarkshire-based company Photoflash. It collided with a bridge on the A73 at Wiston, south-west of Biggar and tumbled down an embankment where the front end came to be submerged in the river.

The inquiry last week heard details from a statement Mr Munro gave to police after the accident – although he is not expected to give evidence due to ill health.

Lanark Sheriff Court heard a transcript of the interview where Mr Munro, of Bothwell, South Lanarkshire, claimed he warned teachers about weather conditions and suggested using an alternative route for their trip to popular theme park on March 31, 2010.

During the interview at Motherwell Police office on April 22, 2010, he said: “When I arrived I said to the people on the coach, ‘It’s no’ a very nice day for it. Would you not rather change the day?’ They weren’t too happy about that, changing the day, so I said ‘If you don’t mind we will go the Garrion Bridge way’.

“While we were waiting on somebody coming, the teacher, I think his name was Peter, came down and introduced himself. I was suggesting to him we went the Garrion Bridge way and he said, ‘Well, we’ll ask the kids if the roads are all right’.

“I said ‘The roads are not all right because there’s heavy snow. I would rather go the Garrion Bridge’.”

Giving evidence, Peter Colquhoun, 28, the physics teacher at Lanark Grammar who organised the trip, denied ever discussing cancelling the journey.

Mr Colquhoun also said he did not discuss taking a different route with Mr Munro. He said: “I am very confident he didn’t say that. The only discussion with him in regards to the weather was when he apologised for being late. I said something like, ‘Don’t worry, you want to take your time in this weather’.”

Mr Colquhoun also said he would have cancelled the trip at the time if he had any concerns. The inquiry also heard tests on the coach’s tachograph showed it was travelling at 25mph when it crashed and it had reached a maximum speed of 38mph during the journey. A vehicle inspection carried out on the coach found no defects which could have led to the collision or a loss of control of the vehicle. It was also revealed a postmortem carried out on Natasha, who was not wearing a seatbelt, found she had drowned.

Another teacher, Alison Murray, 26, also claimed she did not hear the coach driver raise any concerns over the weather or the route.