Company pleads guilty to one charge in Meath bus crash case

One of the companies on trial for breaches of the Health and Safety Act arising from the investigation into a fatal bus crash causing the death of five Meath schoolgirls in 2005 has pleaded guilty to a new charge.

Sonya Kelly, company secretary, pleaded guilty on behalf of Keltank Ltd of Balbriggan, that being aware that ABS sensor leads were disconnected it failed to ensure whether a hazard arose before returning the bus to the driver, Mr John Hubble, on May 5, 2005.

Keltank had previously denied two charges of failing to undertake necessary maintenance and repair of the ABS system on the bus on May 6, 2005.

Judge McCartan adjourned the case of Keltank to Friday next when it will be mentioned before him. It is day-four of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Mr Brendan Grehan SC, prosecuting told Judge Patrick McCartan that the trial would proceed now in relation to McArdles Test Centre Ltd only and that at the end of the hearing a nolle prosequi would be entered in relation to the two charges Ms Kelly had earlier denied on behalf of Keltank.

Mr Joe McArdle, a director, has pleaded not guilty on behalf of McArdles from Dundalk, to two charges of failing to note the ABS warning light on the bus wasn't operational while conducting a vehicle test on March 15, 2005, two months before the tragedy.

Sergeant Alf Martin told Mr Grehan he visited the injured bus driver in hospital and asked him about the crash without being formally introduced. He said Mr Hubble mentioned that "the gardaí would find out if there was something wrong with the brakes".

Sgt Martin said he met the CIE maintenance manager at Broadstone and was given various documents to assist with the crash investigation, including a number of checklists dealing with parts of the bus involved.

One of these was a SH2(A) form containing a list of bus parts tested and ticked off by mechanics on June 7, 2005. He was given similar checklist documents dating from March 2005 to November 2004.

Sgt Martin said the maintenance manager also gave him a number of SH3 forms dating from 2004 to 2005 which detailed the estimates of maintenance work done on the bus.

Sgt Martin said he took certificates of road-worthiness for the bus dating back to 2000, some of them issued by McArdles Test Centre Ltd.

The trial continues before Judge McCartan and a jury of five men and seven women.

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