‘Shattered’ bus driver admits causing cyclist’s death

Bus driver John Yates admitted causing death by careless driving.
Bus driver John Yates admitted causing death by careless driving.
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A bus driver who failed to stop for 24 metres after colliding with and dragging a cyclist under his single-decker vehicle has pleaded guilty to causing his death.

John Yates, 57, admitted causing death by careless driving after he pulled into the path of 46-year-old grandad Leslie Turnbull at a junction in Washington on January 15.

The Go North East driver was driving the Volvo bus on Barmston Way at 7.39am when he failed to give way to Mr Turnbull, who had right of way, Sunderland magistrates heard.

“He was driving a single-decker bus down the A1231 off-slip and the deceased was travelling along Barmston Way on his pedal cycle,” prosecutor Lee Poppett said. “At the junction of the two roads are give way signs.

“It was dark and Mr Turnbull was not wearing reflective clothing and he was wearing dark clothing. He did, however, have a white flashing light on the front handlebars and a flashing red light on the rear. Witnesses did see those flashing lights.”

Mr Poppett said Yates had stopped momentarily to look both ways before pulling out.

A witness was able to sound his horn, warning Yates that he was about to hit Mr Turnbull and a passenger on the bus had also seen him in the moments before the collision.

“It’s at that point that he strikes Mr Turnbull, who subsequently goes under the bus,” Mr Poppett added. “He eventually comes to rest after almost 24 metres.

Mr Yates, when he was interviewed, was unable to see why it took him so long to brake.”

Allowing for stopping distance and reaction time, the court heard, Yates should have been able to stop within 6.06 to 7.22 metres. Instead, he dragged Mr Turnbull under the bus and he was found trapped under the rear-nearside axle.

“It is an emotive case so much is clear,” Mr Poppett said. “I don’t propose to go into the extent of the injuries, but suffice to say it was a tragic case and Mr Turnbull did die.”

Yates, of Davison Terrace, Sacriston, County Durham, had been a bus driver for 30 years at the time of the crash and told police he had driven through the junction between 50 and 100 times.

Lisa Callum, defending, said there was no expert report on behalf of the defence due to problems with legal aid but that Yates’s union had agreed to assist with the cost so that one can be prepared prior to sentence.

“What we are struggling with is the stopping time,” Ms Callum said. “He may have frozen, because his foot has neither pushed the brake or the accelerator. It was very dark.

“He simply hasn’t either made that final check or he hasn’t seen the gentleman.

“He is shattered. He is a broken and shattered man. He doesn’t leave the house. He has lost his job and he doesn’t want another one. He is attending counselling because he is suffering from flashbacks.

“One of the witnesses stopped and stated ‘you’ve killed him’ and he said ‘I know’ and he broke down.”

District Judge Holden said his sentencing powers were insufficient and committed the case to the crown court, adding that no sentence could ever bring comfort Mr Turnbull’s family and friends.

Yates was bailed to appear Newcastle Crown Court on July 31. He was also given an interim driving ban.