A school bus driver ploughed a double decker into a railway bridge yesterday, ripping off its roof and leaving 16 children injured.
Around 70 pupils aged between 11 and 16 from Henry Beaufort School, in Harestock, Winchester, were on the bus when it crashed at around 8am.
Many of them had shouted at the driver as he veered off the usual route, warning him that he was going the wrong way.
They were left screaming in fear as the bus careered into the bridge, sending shards of glass flying.
Three children suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries. A further 13 were treated at the scene of the crash, on Well House Lane, Winchester.
Locals suggested that the driver was new to the job but a source at Stagecoach South, which was running the service, insisted that he was “experienced.” The driver was later questioned by Hampshire Police.
Robert, 15, from Kings Worthy, who was sitting on the bottom deck, said: “I thought we had hit the side of the tunnel… The bus came to a very strong stop.
“I looked and there was glass down the stairs next to me, the roof of the bus had fallen down the side.. and there were cables hanging down.
“The lights had gone off so I looked upstairs and people started coming down but you couldn’t see up there because it was dark.
“I saw people with cuts on their neck, mainly minor injuries. A lot of head or neck injuries, but there were people with worse injuries.”
He told BBC Radio Solent: “Once we got out the bus and looked back at the tunnel it hit a lot of people what had happened and they could see people lying down with really bad injuries.
“That’s when a lot of people started to break down.”
Zoe Kierans told the BBC: “We were driving to school on the bus just like normal and we were going the wrong route but none of us noticed because we were all chatting.
“Then we suddenly hit the top of the tunnel. VEverything fell in on the top… there was glass everywhere and everyone started screaming.”
A man who owns a business near the site of the crash said he had heard the driver was “very new to the job” and that 60 pupils were on board at the time.
The man, who didn’t want to be named, said: “The bridge is fairly low. What people at the scene were saying is that this bus driver was a complete novice.
“I actually think it was his first day – that is what everyone down here is saying. There were a lot of people gathered around and it seems to be he was very new to the job.
“The children were apparently telling the driver it wasn’t their usual route and kept shouting at him telling him the bridge was too low and he wouldn’t be able to get through.
“They were there saying, ‘go back, go back’.
“I know that some of the children were injured and taken, and I believe about half a dozen or so more were injured in some form or another.
“There were at least 60 people on board at the time.”
Henry Beaufort School, which is one-and-a-half miles from the bridge, said senior members of staff had been on site to support pupils.
A school spokeswoman said: “Senior members of staff have been on the site this morning. They are there to support people.
“It’s a sad incident.”
We are dealing with a serious collision on Well House Lane, Winchester, after a school bus collided with a railway bridge. pic.twitter.com/4MIjqSfcjS
— Hants Roads Policing (@HantsPolRoads) September 10, 2020
One parent wrote on social media: “No serious injuries and only a couple of minor ones. The police were brilliant in handling everyone as was Mrs Hurle the Head Teacher and her staff.”
Another witness told Sky News the bus had been full.
“The roof was taken off by the tunnel and fell on the side of the bus,” they said.
Jane Rutter, a Winchester city councillor, wrote on Twitter: “Just had a report that a double decker bus has managed to lodge itself under the railway bridge in Wellhouse Lane, Headbourne Worthy. Emergency services have been called. Please avoid if possible.”
A spokesman for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “Crews from Winchester, Eastleigh, Andover, Redbridge and Basingstoke were mobilised at 08:12 this morning to Wellhouse Lane in Winchester.”
South Central Ambulance Service said it had attended the scene along with Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service and Network Rail.
Hants Road Policing confirmed that there were “no life-threatening injuries”.
“We are dealing with a serious collision on Wellhouse Lane, Winchester, after a school bus collided with a railway bridge. There are no life-threatening injuries.
“A road closure is in place on Wellhouse Lane from Andover Road North to School Lane. Thank you for your patience,” they tweeted.
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