Cubs killed in minibus crash: Fire officer says seat belts could have reduced injuries. David Taylor reports

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The Independent Online
Two cub scouts, both aged 8, and a man aged 41 were killed and about 30 people injured in North Yorkshire yesterday when their minibus collided with a 53-seat coach carrying army cadets.

The three were among a party of nine children and two adults in a 14-seat minibus, travelling west on the A59 between Harrogate and York.

The minibus driver was in a critical condition last night and two cub scouts were in intensive care and said to be 'extremely poorly'.

The crash happened in heavy rain just after 4.30pm at a turn-off for the village of Hopperton. The cubs, from the Crosshills pack at Sutton-in- Craven, near Skipton, North Yorkshire, had been to a scout activity centre at Stockton-on- the-Forest, near York.

The coach, owned by Anderson's of Castleford, was going the other way, carrying 26 army cadets, two army sergeants and a driver. They were travelling from Catterick to drop-off points in York, Selby and Castleford.

Emergency crews confirmed last night that the cub scouts' minibus was not fitted with rear seat-belts. The accident prompted campaigners to renew calls for a ban on coaches and minibuses without seat- belts for all passengers.

In March, a boy of six from a Gloucestershire special school was killed and eight children injured when their minibus was in a head-on collision with a pick-up truck.

Last November 12 pupils from Hagley High School in Warwickshire died along with their music teacher after their minibus hit a stationary maintenance lorry on the hard shoulder of the M40, near

Warwick.

A fire officer at the scene of yesterday's crash said he believed injuries would have been far less severe if the children had been strapped in.

Pat Harris, who leads the national Belt Up School Kids campaign, said last night that legislation should not be delayed. 'I feel very angry and I am dreadfully saddened by this awful news,' she said.

'Our records show that over the past year there has been an average of an accident a week with school buses, with more than 20 children dead and hundreds injured. And casualties are on the increase.

'I feel a time has come when the coach industry can no longer ignore the fact that seat- belts do save lives.'

Derek Prentice, assistant director of the Consumers' Association, said: 'The Government must be held responsible for any deaths or injuries caused by the failure of coach operators to fit seat-belts.'

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