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Bus firm fined £150,000 after death

A company has been fined £150,000 after a mechanic was fatally injured when he was crushed between two buses in what safety inspectors called "a dreadful tragedy".

The bus operator West Midlands Travel - a subsidiary of National Express Group - was also ordered to pay £35,119 in costs after a crown court sentencing hearing today, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

In October 2011, assistant mechanic Lee Baker was crushed against a bus at the firm's Carl Street depot in Walsall, West Midlands.

The injuries sustained by the 24-year-old eventually claimed his life when he died in hospital in February 2012, having never regained consciousness.

Following the hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court, the bus company said the thoughts of staff were with Mr Baker's family and it fully accepted the fine.

The HSE, which brought the prosecution, said Mr Baker, an employee since 2006, was working a night shift with a colleague when the incident happened.

The men were trying to move a bus a short distance, but an automatic safety brake was left disengaged and the bus rolled towards the pair.

Mr Baker's colleague managed to get out of the way but the father-of-one was not so lucky and "was crushed between the two vehicles", an HSE spokesman said.

He leaves behind his partner Donna Perigo and young daughter Katie, who was only a year old when the accident happened.

West Midlands Travel, which employs 5,000 staff, had previously admitted failing to ensure health and safety at work and failing to make a proper risk assessment when pushing buses.

The HSE investigation found employees were not safely trained to manually move buses, allowing some workers to push them.

A towing operator was available to move buses in the depot, but only supervisors had been shown how to call them out, inspectors also concluded.

HSE inspector Eve-Marie Edwards, speaking after the hearing, said: "This was a dreadful tragedy and was devastating to Mr Baker's family.

"It is clear the failings of West Midlands Travel contributed significantly to this young man's death."

Ms Perigo said: "Nothing will ever bring Lee back. My main aim has always been to prevent something like this happening again."

She added: "Lee's death has been tough on all of us. We will never forget what has happened but now we can at last put it to one side and focus on the future."

A National Express spokesman said: "Firstly, it is important to say that our thoughts are with Lee Baker's family on what has been another difficult day for them.

"We respect the judge's decision and the fine awarded in this case. We also welcome the judge's comments on our excellent overall safety record as a major employer."

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