Tester claims lights were working on Meath crash bus

A DOE tester has told a jury that the ABS warning light was working on a bus two months before it was involved in a fatal collision in which five Meath schoolgirls were killed.

Wesley Finlay from McArdles Test Centre Ltd in Dundalk, the company on trial arising out of the accident, said that if the light had not come on in the dashboard on the Bus Eireann vehicle he would have failed it during a DOE test on March 4, 2005 and not passed it as being road worthy on March 15, 2005.

He also told Mr Brendan Grehan SC, prosecuting, that the first time he became aware that there was no bulb in the warning light at all was in Navan as he was giving a statement to gardaí the month after the accident.

When asked by counsel if he had seen disconnected ABS cables underneath the vehicle during the original test, Mr Finlay replied that he could not remember the test specifically but if the cables had been in that state the vehicle would have failed the test.

Mr Finlay agreed that the gardaí showed him photographs of the broken ABS cables on the undercarriage of the vehicle and said that he knew that this meant the ABS would not have been working.

"All I can say is if it had been in that condition (during the test), I would have failed it," he said on day-six of the hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Mr Finlay told Mr Grehan that he did not have a memory of carrying out the work on the bus because he tested 40 to 45 vehicles per week. He restated that if that the warning light had not come on as it should have he would have failed the vehicle because there would have been a fault with the ABS system.

Mr Joe McArdle, a director, has pleaded not guilty on behalf of McArdles Test Centre Ltd, 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.

A second company, Keltank Ltd of Balbriggan, has pleaded guilty through Sonya Kelly, company secretary, that being aware that ABS sensor leads were disconnected it failed to ascertain whether a hazard arose as a consequence thereof before returning the bus to the driver, Mr Hubble, on May 5, 2005.

Detective Garda Niall O'Donnell, the exhibits officer in the case, demonstrated the dashboard panel which carried the ABS warning light in the fatal DAF bus to the jury.

He said that an adhesive front, containing the symbols for the various light could be peeled off, revealing a corresponding compartment for each individual bulb. He showed the jury that the bulb for the ABS warning light was clearly missing.

Det Gda O'Donnell agreed with Mr Roderick O'Hanlon SC, defence counsel for McArdles, that it was clear the adhesive cover held each bulb securely in place.

Mr Finlay told Mr Grehan that he had become aware since the accident that the vehicle had been fitted with ABS.

He said that he would have had "no reason" to check the warning lights on the dashboard because there had been no problem with it during the original test.

Mr Finlay said that on March 15, 2005, he only re-tested the fail items on the bus as per the original test and that it was probable that the bus might not even have stopped as he carried out a visual check on it.

Earlier, Mr Tony Wynn, a senior vehicle tester at the Department of Transport, with a responsibility for training testers and for the vehicle testers' manual, told Mr O'Hanlon, that a DOE tester would have no responsibility for repairing a vehicle nor would he be obliged to diagnose why a vehicle component had failed.

He agreed that ABS was an optional extra when Bus Eireann purchased the vehicle in 1992 but added that since that year, if a company required a full vehicle type approval by the European Union, allowing the vehicle to be driven anywhere, it must then have ABS fitted.

The prosecution case has now ended and the hearing continues before Judge Patrick McCartan and a jury of five men and seven women.

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