Cumbria school bus crash deaths 'accidental'

The deaths of two schoolchildren in a crash in Cumbria could have been avoided if they had been wearing seatbelts, a coroner has said.

Keswick School pupils Chloe Walker, 16, and Kieran Goulding, 15, were killed when their bus was hit by a car driven by Patrick Short, 68, who also died.

The inquest heard that the youngsters were flung through the window in the head-on collision.

A verdict of accidental death was ruled in all three cases.

The three-day hearing, at Cleator Moor Civic Hall, heard that the 49-seat coach and Mr Short's Honda Civic were travelling in opposite directions when the crash happened on the A66 near Keswick on 24 May 2010.

Coach driver David Radcliffe said there had been no way he could have avoided the head-on crash with Mr Short's car.

'Simple lesson'

The inquest heard that Mr Short, a children's services manager at Barnardo's, had left work early on the day of the crash because he said he was feeling tired, and it was possible he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Only a few of the 38 pupils on board the coach were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the impact.

Kieran was standing in the aisle, having got up to try to open the skylight, and Chloe was kneeling on her seat next to him.

Coroner for North and West Cumbria David Roberts said: "On the balance of probabilities, had Chloe and Kieran been wearing seatbelts, or at the very least been sitting in their seats, they would not have fallen through the window and under the bus.

"I am of the opinion that if the seatbelts provided on the bus had been worn then injuries would have been reduced and lives would have been saved."

He added: "The lesson to be learnt from this tragedy is very simple: wear your seatbelt.

"Few people would give a second thought to wearing one in a car. Why should a coach be any different?"

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