Accident reopens debate over seat belts: Boy, 6, dies as school mini-bus hits truck

A BOY aged six was killed and eight other children were injured when the mini-bus taking them to school collided head-on with a pick- up truck yesterday.

The truck driver and two adults travelling with the children were also hurt in the accident, near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.

Yesterday's crash reopened the debate on whether school buses should be fitted throughout with seat belts - only the mini-bus driver and front passenger had restraints. Police say the accident occurred as the six boys and three girls aged between 5 and 14 were being driven to Alderman Knight special school in Tewkesbury. It helps children with moderate learning difficulties.

The mini-bus collided with the truck on a straight stretch of road near Ford. It then turned on its side and ploughed through a stone wall, trapping Richard Jones, six, of Aston Magna, near Moreton-in- Marsh, Gloucestershire. He was dead on arrival at Cheltenham General Hospital.

The other eight pupils, several of whom had to be cut free from the wreckage, were also taken to the hospital for treatment. They were detained overnight for observation, as were their adult supervisor, Huw Morgan, 50, and the mini-bus driver, Martin Rose, 36.

Paul Wilson, the hospital's accident and emergency consultant, said some of the injuries could have been prevented had all the children been wearing seat belts.

The driver of the pick-up truck, Gareth Heath, 41, of Cardiff, was cut free and flown by air ambulance to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford with serious spinal and internal injuries. He was yesterday described as stable.

Pupils at Alderman Knight were told of the accident in assembly, and were offered the chance to see a psychologist trained in bereavement counselling. A spokeswoman for Gloucestershire County Council confirmed that the mini-bus had front seat belts only. Carol Rose, mother of the driver, said it had recently passed its annual Department of Transport inspection.

Concern over the safety of school buses has grown since last November, when 12 children and their teacher died on the M40 in Warwickshire after their mini-bus struck the back of a lorry and burst into flames. A few days later, 13 members of a school football team were injured when their mini-bus was crushed between a petrol tanker and a lorry on the A3 at Paines Hill, Surrey. Doctors said all but one of the pupils escaped serious injury because the vehicle was fitted with seat belts, which they were wearing.

The Department of Transport said yesterday that seat-belt regulation is a matter for European Union law, and while Britain could act alone, legislation would be difficult to enforce. A European Commission working group has been formed to examine bus and coach safety.

However, motoring organisations, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and other pressure groups believe seat belts should be fitted now to all minibuses and coaches.

Derek Prentice, assistant director of the Consumers' Association, yesterday called on Robert Key, the Minister for Roads and Traffic, to act without waiting for Europe- wide agreement. 'Research consistently shows that seat belts save lives. Legislation which makes the fitting of seat belts in mini-buses and coaches compulsory is long overdue,' he said.

His view is supported by David Young, Labour MP for Bolton South East, who has tabled Commons questions to John MacGregor, Secretary of State for Transport, and John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, demanding that all coaches used to carry children should have seat belts for each passenger.

However, Christine Milburn of the Bus and Coach Council, said the Government and the European Commission must first complete thorough safety studies. 'We have to make sure we have the right system for the job. Once the research is done and our members are told, 'this will make your vehicles safer' they will go out and do it.'

Last night, Richard's parents, Jim and Gwendolin Jones, who have three other children, described their son as 'just as mischievous as any lively six-year-old who like most children deserved and received a lot of love'.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: AV Installation Engineer

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to business growth, this is...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Care Support Workers

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this care company base...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent