A loose wheel on a school bus could have resulted in carnage, a safety enforcement officer has said.
The operator from Bready, Co Londonderry, has been fined £1,250 for using a bus in dangerous condition.
William Leonard, trading as Leonard Travel of Donagheady Road, was also ordered to pay £34 court costs at Londonderry Magistrates Court on Thursday.
Mr Leonard said that he had to hire the bus in question from another firm at short notice after his own failed to start.
The businessman, who contested the charge in court, said he is seeking legal advice about the potential for challenging the ruling. Inspectors reported a catalogue of defects besides the loose wheel.
These included a skylight covered by a towel fastened with a piece of cord to stop rain getting in.
The bus was inspected by the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) immediately after its driver dropped children off at a secondary level school in Derry on February 6, 2012.
It was concluded that owing to the defects, the bus could not continue its journey and an immediate prohibition was imposed restricting its movement until the road wheel was made secure.
The vehicle’s PSV licence was also suspended on grounds that it was deemed unfit for service.
Stephen Spratt, DVA enforcement operations manager, said: “We have ongoing and random compliance spot checks on buses used for home-to-school transport right across the province on an ongoing basis.
“In this particular incident there was an unsecured road wheel. The nuts that hold the wheel on to the hub itself had come loose.
“This clearly presents a safety risk and is a critical issue — this was a busload of kids going to school and a loose wheel.
“That wheel had the potential to come off and the consequences of that situation could have been very dire.
“You are talking about serious injuries, possible fatalities.
“Parents expect their children to get to school and come home in one piece and for a driver to be charged with the care of the kids is an important consideration in this.”
William Leonard yesterday conceded that some of the faults were accurate. “I am not saying there weren’t some defects there and I am not making light that there were faults. If the nuts were loose it would have been a very serious situation,” he said.
He claimed several other buses from other firms were also deemed to defective during the same DVA operation.
Faults found on the school bus: