Coach driver ‘asked teacher to cancel trip before death crash’

Natasha Paton drowned after the coach left the road
Natasha Paton drowned after the coach left the road
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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 ­yesterday.

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.

Yesterday, a fatal accident inquiry into Natasha’s death heard details of 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 probe due to ill-health.

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

During the interview at Motherwell police station on 22 April, 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 that we went the Garrion Bridge 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 School who organised the trip, denied ever discussing cancelling the ­journey. Mr Colquhoun also insisted that 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’.

“I don’t have any recollection of this [other] conversation.”

Mr Colquhoun, who suffered a cut arm and a head wound in the crash, also said he would have cancelled the trip at the time if he had had concerns.

The inquiry heard tests on the coach’s tachograph showed it was travelling at 25mph when it crashed and that 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, concluded that she had drowned.

Natasha, from the village of Cleghorn near Lanark, died after the bus collided with a bridge and tumbled down an embankment where the front end of the vehicle came to be submerged in a river.

The inquiry before Sheriff Nikola Stewart continues.