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Death crash driver asked teachers to cancel journey

THE driver of a coach that crashed in a blizzard and killed a teenage schoolgirl asked teachers to consider cancelling the trip, an inquiry heard.

NATASHA PATON: Crash claimed the life of the 17-year-old pupil.
NATASHA PATON: Crash claimed the life of the 17-year-old pupil.

Raymond Munro, 63, was at the wheel of a bus taking pupils from Lanark Grammar School to Alton Towers theme park in 2010.

The coach carrying 39 pupils and staff crashed, claiming the life of 17-year-old Natasha Paton, from Cleghorn village, near Lanark.

A fatal accident inquiry into Natasha's death yesterday heard details from a statement Mr Munro gave to police after the accident on the A73 near Biggar.

Mr Munro is not expected to give evidence at the inquiry due to ill health.

Lanark Sheriff Court heard a transcript of the interview where Mr Munro, of Bothwell, South Lanarkshire, claimed he warned teachers about weather conditions and suggested using an alternative route for their trip to Staffordshire on March 31, 2010.

During the interview at Motherwell Police office on April 22, 2010, he said: "When I arrived I said to the people on the coach, 'It's no' a very nice day for it. Would you not rather change the day?'. They weren't too happy about that, changing the day, so I said 'If you don't mind we will go the Garrion Bridge way'.

"While we were waiting on somebody coming, the teacher, I think his name was Peter, came down and introduced himself. I was suggesting to him we went the Garrion Bridge way and he said, 'Well, we'll ask the kids if the roads are all right'.

"I said 'The roads are not all right because there's heavy snow. I would rather go the Garrion Bridge'."

Giving evidence, Peter Colquhoun, 28, the physics teacher at Lanark Grammar who organised the trip, denied ever discussing cancelling the journey.

Mr Colquhoun also said he did not discuss taking a different route with Mr Munro.

He said: "I am very confident he didn't say that. The only discussion with him in regards to the weather was when he apologised for being late. I said something like, 'Don't worry, you want to take your time in this weather'."

Mr Colquhoun also said he would have cancelled the trip at the time if he had any concerns.

The inquiry also heard tests on the coach's tachograph showed it was travelling at 25mph when it crashed and it had reached a maximum speed of 38mph during the journey. A vehicle inspection carried out on the bus found no defects that could have led to the collision or a loss of control of the vehicle.

It was also revealed a post-mortem carried out on Natasha, who was not wearing a seatbelt, found she had drowned.

The inquiry also heard from Alison Murray, 26, a PE teacher at Lanark Grammar, who was also on the trip.

She described the chaotic scenes as the bus crashed and plunged off the bridge and into the water. She said: "The bus just didn't turn at all and we hit the wall head-on as far as I can remember.

"It then turned on its right-hand side and into the water and came to a standstill. It shuddered all the way down the embankment. It got so dark and there was screaming. I just remember the screaming and the shuddering."

Miss Murray told how she was left dangling by her seatbelt but managed to free herself before trying to round up pupils who had also got out of the bus.

She added: "The emergency services asked for the amount of people who were on the bus and they asked for registers. We explained we didn't have them, they were in the water."

Miss Murray said she did not hear the coach driver raise any concerns over the weather or the route. The inquiry before Sheriff Nikola Stewart continues.

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