Belfast Telegraph

Co Tyrone crash: 52 in miracle escape as school bus full of children collides with car

By Adrian Rutherford and Joanne Sweeney

Two investigations have been launched after 45 students had a miraculous escape when their school bus collided with a car and overturned.

Questions over safety were raised after the vehicles left the road and crashed through hedges before ending up in a field, where the bus overturned onto its side.

All 52 people involved – the students, other passengers, the bus driver and the female driver of the car – were left badly shaken by the ordeal, but no one was seriously injured.

The PSNI and Translink have launched separate investigations into how the coach crashed yesterday morning on a straight stretch of road from Drumquin as it made its way into Omagh for the start of the school day.

It is not known if all the pupils were wearing seatbelts or whether any were standing, but concerns were raised by Nigel Frith, principal of Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh.

Mr Frith said that one of his Year Eight students was on board. He added that while he was thankful no one was badly hurt, he was concerned at the possibility of children standing up on any bus they were travelling in.

"I simply hate the thought of pupils standing on a bus," he said. "It's something that I would be very concerned about, but we are rejoicing that no one was seriously injured."

Translink has confirmed that the bus involved was providing a schools service and the seats had been fitted with belts.

"There were 45 students involved and this was one of our high-capacity buses providing a dedicated schools service," the organisation added.

"There would have been sufficient capacity for all students involved to have had a seat."

Education Minister John O'Dowd said his department and the Department for Regional Development would be looking at any concerns raised.

He also stressed that education board policy was for pupils to be seated with their safety belts on.

Mr O'Dowd added that he was shocked at the crash. "I am thankful that no one was seriously injured during this terrible incident, and my thoughts go out to the parents and families of all those involved, including the occupants of the car," he said.

Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey, whose two children were travelling on the bus behind, said it was lucky that "a major tragedy" had been averted.

"It's absolutely miraculous that none of the kids on the bus died," he added.

"There's a palpable sense of relief in the Castlederg community that we are not looking at a major tragedy involving our children."

The Strabane district councillor said his children told him that seatbelts were provided on buses, and he said he believed the devices had saved youngsters in the accident from serious harm.

"It would appear on this occasion that kids on the bus were being sensible, as given the way the bus was lying, there could have been kids being thrown about on that bus," he added.

The bus was moving secondary school students when the accident happened at around 8.20am at the junctions of Segully Road and Drumrawn Road.

Student Katie Devlin, who was among those on board, said she was grateful that it was not a more serious accident.

"It was really scary – you didn't know what was going to happen," she added. "We're all very, very lucky that it wasn't any worse than what it was."

Student Inaris Orbis, who smashed the back window to help people escape, said: "Everybody was screaming and crying. My friend just told me to put the window through."

Twenty-seven people were taken to Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry and 25 to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.

John McPoland, from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, said four A&E crews, three patient care service vehicles, two rapid response paramedics and two ambulance officers attended the scene.

Sinn Féin councillor Frankie Donnelly visited the area soon after the crash.

He said it had the potential to be "a major disaster". "Thankfully, most people walked away physically unscathed," he added.

"Of course, they were badly shaken up, which is only to be expected, but the fact that there didn't appear to be any serious injuries is very fortunate."

DRD Minister Danny Kennedy said last night: "This was obviously an upsetting ordeal for the schoolchildren, passengers and others involved."

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