Manningtree: Bus firm defends record after crash horror

A BUS company yesterday defended its safety record as one of its drivers faced the prospect of being prosecuted after a coach carrying more than 40 people crashed into a railway bridge.

RW Chenery Coaches, based in Dickleburgh, near Diss, was ferrying rail passengers between Ipswich and Colchester on Sunday evening when the accident happened near Manningtree train station. Eleven of the 41 people on board were taken to Colchester Hospital with minor injuries, all of whom were discharged on Sunday night.

A spokesperson for RW Chenery Coaches said: “This is the first major accident that one of our vehicles has been involved in after over 60 years of safe operation. Safety of our passengers is our number one concern and we wish all those who received injuries on our coach a speedy recovery.”

The company statement came as passengers spoke to the EADT about how the drama unfolded after the accident happened at just after 6pm.

Helen Gilmore, 25, of Woodbridge, who was sitting four rows from the back on an aisle seat, said: “The driver had just made an announcement that we would soon be arriving at Manningtree station when there was a massive bang and the bus stopped dead.

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“I was thrown forward and smashed my face on the seat in front – I knew straight away that I had broken my nose.

“We all scrambled out of the emergency exit and I was shocked to see what had happened.

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“There were a lot of people on the coach and many of them had been reaching up to get their bags and putting on jackets when the crash happened.

“I saw a lot of people were bleeding and one man at the front of the bus was trapped. The window was smashed and I could see his arm hanging out.’’

Celia Fletcher was sitting directly behind the driver. The 26-year-old teacher, who was travelling home to London after staying with her parents in Charsfield, was left shaken and bruised. She said: “I was chatting away on my phone when I suddenly heard a crashing sound.

“The roof started to come in and bits were falling on people. I could see smoke and thought the bus had caught fire.

“The guy next to me was trapped but we all finally got out. Some passengers came off with blood on their faces.

“I’m still quite exhausted but luckily nobody was badly injured.”

Sam Morter, 19, of Ipswich, who suffered a sprained wrist in the crash, said: “Fortunately there were no elderly or young children on board. The emergency services acted really quickly. We were freezing cold and stranded. Fortunately someone was able to pick me up and take me back to Ipswich.”

A spokesman for Essex Police said the driver, who suffered a head injury and was taken to Colchester General Hospital, would be “reported for driving offences to the Crown Prosecution Service.”

Peter Meades, a spokesman for train operator National Express East Anglia, said: “We continue to provide care and support to those who were affected. There were a handful of people who did not wish to continue with their journeys last night and we are helping them with their travel arrangements today.

“We source our replacement coach and bus services through our suppliers and we need to make sure that an incident like this does not happen again.”

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