Schoolboys in hospital after bus crash

BLOODIED and bruised schoolboys spoke of their terror last night after the bus they were on was involved in a crash with a tractor – leaving six of them in hospital and many more walking wounded.

By James Mortlock

BLOODIED and bruised schoolboys spoke of their terror last night after the bus they were on was involved in a crash with a tractor – leaving six of them in hospital and many more walking wounded.

The rugby team-mates – who all escaped life threatening injuries – were taken to West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, after the crash on the Beyton to Rougham road, just off the A14.

As the youngsters from Beyton Middle School were discharged from the unit, they spoke of the pandemonium which erupted among the 24 pupils on the bus as driver John Turner battled to stop his coach from overturning.

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They had seen their teacher Rory Michael catapulted into the windscreen by the impact of the crash and watched in horror as tractor driver David Burton-Pye was sent flying through the rear window of his mangled cab and pinned to the ground by the fertiliser spreader he was carrying.

Liam Rogers, 12, who suffered damage to his leg, praised the coach driver for keeping the bus upright: "It was very scary. I didn't know what had happened at first but quite a few seats came away and everyone was screaming.

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"We all managed to get out of the emergency exit. Those of us who were hurt sat down on the verge and the others were standing by the side of the road so the emergency services knew where to go.

"My leg got smashed into the seats and I was jammed between the seats. The doctors said my leg was just bruised and the muscle might be bleeding. It really was quite frightening but I'm feeling okay now. I think we had quite a lucky escape – the front of the bus is pretty smashed up."

Fraser Houghton, also 12, of Thurston, who did not need hospital treatment, suffered a bruised abdomen in the 3.40pm accident and was being closely monitored by his family last night. He said panic broke out on the bus following the accident.

"There seemed to be quite a few broken noses and some serious leg injures. Mr Michael was sitting at the front of the coach and his seat seemed to break away – the windscreen smashed just before he hit it.

"There were bags everywhere and everyone seemed to be bleeding. It was quite panicky when it happened but everyone got out through the fire exit at the back. I've got a sore stomach as I went into the back of the of the seat in front."

He believes the driver's desperate efforts to keep the coach upright prevented more serious injuries: "He slammed on the brakes and managed to bring it to a stop."

Beyton Middle School headteacher Andy Nicholson and his deputy Bob Lock were on the scene within minutes.

Mr Nicholson, who went on to the hospital to check on the pupils in accident and emergency, said: "When it first happened we didn't know what we were going to find. The situation could have been an awful lot worse.

"Six children were brought in for observation. Three have been discharged with their parents and there are still three in. Two of them are being given X-rays at the moment and the other one is under observation for abdominal injuries but we're led to believe they are not serious."

He praised the pupils for the "sensible and calm" way they handled the situation. He added that Mr Michael, a religious education teacher at the school, suffered head injures but he too was due to be allowed home last night.

Dr Roy Bannon, medical director at the unit, said the hospital's major incident system was initiated when news of the accident came through: "It means we gear up the number of doctors coming down. It gives the whole system the flexibility to deliver at the front line.

"Things worked very well – it's the sort of situation we would expect the hospital to operate at its best in – to move into a different level of seriousness."

Dr Bannon said all of the schoolboys were expected home last night. He said Mr Michael and tractor driver Mr Burton-Pye, who was initially believed to have suffered serious head injuries, were also thought to be well enough to go home.

Andrew Hunt, manager at Rougham Estates, where Mr Burton-Pye has worked for almost 25 years, said the 51-year-old had been catapulted from his cab by the impact of the crash: "We really don't know what happened but David was thrown out of the bus window and the fertiliser spreader was laying partly on top of his face. Our thoughts are with him and his family."

Mr Turner, who runs the Turners bus company of Great Barton, said he had never had a crash in his 43 years of driving coaches. He told how he fought to stop the coach from overturning after the initial impact of the accident.

The driver said he managed to bring the bus to a standstill by standing on his brake and once the vehicle had stopped he walked all the children – who were heading to the Bury leisure centre for a match with Westley Middle School's senior rugby team – to safety.

"I think it was very fortunate that the children got out okay. I managed to avoid a completely head-on crash and steered away as I put my brake on with maximum force. I think that's probably why the children were not more badly injured."

He was finally able to being the bus to a halt several hundred yards away from the point of the first impact.

Fire crews from Ixworth and Bury went to the scene and helped clear the wreckage from the road, while paramedics also attended.

A police spokesman said the crash brought rush-hour traffic problems to the busy country road. Local diversions were put in place while the wrecked tractor and bus were moved away from the scene.

An investigation has now been launched and anyone who witnessed the accident is asked to contact the Bury Road Policing Unit on 01284 774100.

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