Northern Ireland

Ciara Park death bus driver exonerated

Photographs displayed at funeral
Image caption Ciara Park died in November 2008

A bus driver who knocked down and killed a schoolgirl could not have avoided her, an inquest has heard.

Ciara Park, 16, was trapped under the double-decker vehicle in Belfast city centre in November 2008.

Witnesses told the inquest that Miss Park had not glanced around as she crossed Castle Place in early evening darkness.

Specialist investigator George Johnston told the Belfast hearing the accident would have happened "in a second".

Travelling

"There would have been little likelihood if any that the driver would have been able to initiate a reaction before she was struck," he said.

The driver Michael Morris, 37, said he been travelling at approximately 5mph when the accident happened.

"I suddenly saw a flash of black to the very near front side of the bus and then almost simultaneously I heard a bang," he said.

Mr Morris, who has been off sick since the accident, stopped immediately.

Ciara, from Margaretta Park in west Belfast, who had two brothers, was in the city centre to buy a CD.

Several onlookers said she had an umbrella up, was wearing dark clothes and did not look up to see the bus approaching.

She was thrown in the air like a "rag doll" as the bus negotiated a ramp, then fell under it, causing a badly broken leg and ribs.

A security guard at a nearby shop Daniel Dubanowski said: "She was sucked under it like a Hoover."

She suffered heart failure on her way to hospital and was pronounced dead within an hour.

Access

Her father Gerard Park, who had arranged to meet her in the area, had been unable to contact her on her mobile phone and became more alarmed as he heard the emergency services arrive.

"Your gut feeling right away was that that was Ciara," he recalled.

He asked police officers but was denied access to the scene. Eventually someone reported that the victim was aged around 16.

"I knew then it was my daughter," he added.

Shopper Julie Petticrew, who saw the accident, said: "She was holding an umbrella in front of her, she did not look for traffic.

"I saw her being thrown up into the air, she flung her arms to the left, her left leg came up behind her in a strange shape. It was like she was a rag doll."

Forensic science investigator Mr Johnston said there were no marks on the bus to indicate where she was struck, with some of the evidence perhaps destroyed when fire crew used airbags to lift the bus off, and only a hair was left underneath it.

Belfast area Metrobus manager Billy Gilpin said reminders had been issued to ensure drivers had dipped headlamps and the speed limit was reduced to 10mph in the area.

The road has been made one-way. A review found buses should still be allowed to travel on it.

Coroner Brian Sherrard concluded that the youngster died after the heavy vehicle hit her and expressed his sympathies.

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