A COACH driver risked the lives of 64 passengers when he drove through a storm - with no working windscreen wipers.
William Blundell had 36 children and 28 adults on board his coach, which he continued to drive despite being barely able to see what was ahead of him.
One witness was with her daughter and was so concerned ... she contacted her partner, who in turn contacted the bus company and thereafter the police.Paul Rowland, prosecuting
One frightened mum, who was on board with her daughter as the bus travelled through the darkness, got so afraid she rang her partner at home, who alerted the police.
Officers stopped the bus, which was travelling from Blyth in Northumberland to Pennywell Community Centre in Sunderland, at Testo’s roundabout and prevented Blundell from travelling any further in that vehicle.
The 54-year-old, of Eastley Road, Seaham, County Durham, admitted he had “bowed to pressure” by passengers keen to complete the journey instead of waiting two hours for a replacement bus after he reported his wipers were broken.
He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, and at Newcastle Crown Court today, was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with a 12-month driving ban and £340 costs.
Judge Deborah Sherwin said a “risk was placed upon the lives of the passengers on the coach”.
The judge told Blundell: “You initially did the right thing, you contacted the company and were told there would be a delay of two hours.
“When the information was passed to passengers, some prevailed upon you to start driving.
“It was your duty as a driver to resist what the passengers had to se because the safety of the adults and children on that coach should have been a the forefront of your mind.
“You bowed to pressure and carried on driving.”
Prosecutor Paul Rowland told the court Blundell had picked up the party of passengers on behalf of his company on August 1 last year when it started to drizzle and then rain heavily.
Mr Rowland said: “One witness was with her daughter and she was so concerned about the situation because it was apparent the spray and rain were present on the windscreen and thereby reduced visibility so much so she contacted her partner, who in turn contacted the bus company and thereafter the police.
“Bearing in mind he is a professional driver, he was carrying both children and adults, and the nature of the road conditions, there was a substantial risk.”
Katherine Dunn, defending, said Blundell is a timid man with a good work record who admitted his actions were “stupidity, a foolish, foolish error”.
Miss Dunn said: “He contacted his company, who told him it would be two hours for another bus to turn up.
“He informed the passengers and did feel under pressure when being asked to drive the bus, because it was not raining at that stage.”
The court heard Blundell has been kept on by his company doing yard work, but fears for his long-term future at the firm.
Miss Dunn added; “He bitterly regrets his actions.
“He is thankful no one was injured and there was no accident as a result of his actions.”