Bus crash driver’s accidental death

The scene of the fatal crash on North View, Newfield, near Chester-le-Street.

The scene of the fatal crash on North View, Newfield, near Chester-le-Street.

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A BUS driver died after a coach veered onto the wrong side of the road, an inquest was told.

Gordon Hutchinson died instantly after his single decker Classic Coaches bus service was struck by the Nightingale’s coach being driven by Jack Hall.

The 58-year-old, from Lowther Avenue, Chester-le-Street, suffered multiple injuries, including a broken neck and was declared dead at the scene.

Mr Hall, 51, sustained serious head injuries and did not attend an inquest into Mr Hutchinson’s death at Chester-le-Street Magistrates’ Court, with the hearing told he had no recollection of the incident.

Coroner Andrew Tweddle heard how Mr Hutchinson had picked up passenger Eileen Turpin from a stop on the C94 in Newfield, Chester-le-Street, and had just pulled out back onto the road when the collision happened.

Police investigations found Mr Hall, who had made his last drop-off following a school run from St Leonard’s School just minutes earlier, had been on the wrong side of the carriageway.

The impact between the empty Nightingale’s coach, which had been heading from a 40mph zone into the village’s 30mph area, and Mr Hutchinson’s bus, which was travelling in the other direction, was not witnessed.

Investigators were satisfied neither vehicle was being driven at excessive speed, with Mr Hutchinson’s only just moving off and Mr Hall’s travelling between 30mph and 40mph. Both were mechanically sound and the drivers free of drink and drugs.

Pc Christine Wood, who led inquiries into the incident, said: “The bus has just pulled away from the bus stop and the coach has gone over the white line on to the wrong side of the road.

“It’s a possible conclusion Mr Hall has taken ill, but I have no evidence to sustain that, no evidence to confirm that he has been drawn by some other distraction.

“There’s no evidence to suggest Mr Hall has driving anything other than in a satisfactory and safe manner at the time of the collision.”

Mrs Turpin, along with fellow passenger Frank Bourne, and the schoolgirl last off the coach said both men had been driving appropriately in the lead up to the incident, which happened on March 3 last year at 4pm.

Mr Tweddle said: “In the concluding part of her evidence, Pc Wood found no reasonable explanation why this collision took place.

“It’s clear from the position of the vehicles on the photos, it seems that Mr Hall was clearly on the wrong side of the road, as you might call it.

“I visited the scene myself so know first hand what the photos show.

“It is unfortunate we haven’t been able to get a better explanation as to what happened on that afternoon.”

Verdict: Accidental.