Leeds & West Yorkshire

M62 hen party crash: Minibus driver's 'idiotic actions' blamed

Bethany Jones Image copyright West Yorkshire Police
Image caption Bethany Jones, 18, was killed in the crash on the M62, near Pontefract, West Yorkshire in April last year

The sister of a woman killed in a minibus crash has blamed the driver's "idiotic actions", a jury has heard.

Amy Firth said James Johnson's bus was moving at 5.5mph on the M62 motorway just before the crash that killed Bethany Jones, Leeds Crown Court heard.

Her statement was read out at the trial of Kevin Ollerhead, who denies a charge of causing death by dangerous driving after his lorry hit the minibus.

Bus driver James Johnson of Wyke, Bradford, has admitted the same charge.

Mr Ollerhead, of Lincoln Crescent, St Helens, was driving on cruise control, Leeds Crown Court heard.

Miss Jones, 18, was part of a hen party as the bus made its way to Liverpool.

Eleven of the 20 other women on the bus were injured but Miss Jones - a trainee nurse - was the only one who suffered multiple injuries and died in the crash, near Pontefract in April last year.

'Sister and best friend'

Miss Jones's sister Amy Firth was also in the hen party. She told the jury: "That short journey changed my life and that of my family.

Image copyright Lynne Cameron/PA wire
Image caption Truck driver Kevin Ollerhead is on trial at Leeds Crown Court for causing death by dangerous driving

"My sister and best friend Beth was taken from me by the idiotic actions of that minibus driver."

The jury heard how the hen party had set off from South Elmsall in West Yorkshire for a weekend in Liverpool ahead of the wedding of Stefanie Firth.

The women described how they could smell burning when the minibus got on to the A1.

They said they forced the driver to stop to check his vehicle but once the journey continued and the minibus moved on to the M62, it slowed to a crawl.

Ms Firth said other vehicles were honking their horns because the bus was going so slowly.

She told the jury that Mr Johnson, of Whytecote End, Wyke, "should never have carried on driving" with the vehicle in that condition.

Image caption James Johnson has pleaded guilty to causing Bethany Jones's death by dangerous driving

"The next thing I remember was waking up and the bus being laid on its side," said Ms Firth.

She said she was "crying and screaming" and shouting out for her sister but got no reply.

Amy Firth's mother, Diane Jones, who was also on the minibus, told the jury she could hear Amy shouting but could not hear Bethany.

Prosecutor Bryan Cox QC told the jury on Monday that the collision happened after the coach had mechanical problems and "slowed to a snail's pace" on the motorway.

Other vehicles avoided the coach but Mr Ollerhead was driving the lorry on a cruise control set to 52mph, and drove straight into the back of the bus, shunting it 50 yards along the road into a crash barrier.

Mr Ollerhead denies causing death by dangerous driving. The trial continues.

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