No “blame” following Mearns school bus accident

NO “blame” has been attatched to any individual or organisation following the accident of October 1 last year, when a double decker bus carrying 34 Mearns Academy pupils toppled over on to its side on the Garvock Hill.

Enquiries by Grampian Police and an internal enquiry by bus company Stagecoach Bluebird have now been concluded.

In a letter to Ewan Wallace, Head of Transportation with Aberdeenshire Council, Police Inspector Ian Kirkwood said that following the accident a lengthy enquiry commenced which included the driver and all passengers being interviewed.

A mechanical examination of the bus was carried out and not defects found.

Police conclude that the accident was caused by the bus being caught by an excessive gust of wind, causing the driver to lose control. This caused the bus to veer to the nearside where its wheels drove on to a soft verge which then gave way causing the bus to topple.

Consultation took place with the Health and Safety Executive and the Procurator Fiscal and no criminal proceedings are being taken.

The Inspector said there were a number of learning points identified which have been shared with the council and Stagecoach. These include the fact that a risk assessment of September 2 concluded that the use of a double decker bus was appropriate on the route with the proviso that two single deck buses would be used during times of high winds. No wind speed threshhold was agreed so consequently no formal method of determining the weather was in place.

There was no accurate passenger manifest immediately available following the collision. Police were therefore unable to quickly confirm who was or was not on the bus and whether all pupils were safe and accounted for.

In their report, Stagecoach Bluebird said the driver did not have reason to suspect the wind was particularly strong when he left Mearns Academy. In addition the Stonehaven Controller, reported that he had no reason to think that the wind was particularly severe by his observations at the Stonehaven depot.

It was only on nearing the top of Garvock Hill that the driver realised the severity of the wind strength.

The driver helped the children from the vehicle and tried to treat some of the injuries, while awaiting the arrival of the emergency services. Local operator, M.W. Nicoll, transported most of the children back to Mearns Academy to be checked over by ambulance staff. A number of children were taken direct to hospital from the site and two further from the school.

Stagecoach say that given the information available to them, both the Controller and the driver made reasonable decisions.