Traffic lights too close to bend in bus crash road, court hears

A motorist who witnessed the school bus crash that killed five school girls has said she thought the temporary traffic lights assisting road works on the Navan to Kentstown road were too close to a bend.

Ms Shirley Byrne said when she stopped at the lights, she left enough room between her black Jeep and the lorry in front of her so she could pull up beside it should something come around the bend behind her.

She told prosecuting counsel Mr Jonathan Kilfeather BL (with Mr Brendan Grehan SC and Mr Remy Farrell BL) that she was nervous about the lights being so close to the bend and kept checking her rear-view mirror because it was her "instinct" that a vehicle travelling around the corner wouldn't have time to stop.

She told Mr Kilfeather in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that she saw a bus come around the bend and veer across both sides of the road.

She said she moved her car to the left hand side of the lorry and by this time the bus had toppled onto its side facing the direction it had come from.

Ms Sonya Kelly, company secretary, has pleaded not guilty on behalf of Keltank Ltd, from Balbriggan, to two charges of failing to undertake necessary maintenance and repair of the ABS system on the bus on May 6, 2005.

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

Ms Dolores Gibney, who was travelling toward Navan on her way home from work, described how her black Volkswagon Polo collided with the school bus after the traffic lights.

She told Mr Kilfeather that once she had crossed back into the proper lane after the road works she saw the rear of a bus "spinning around the turn".

"I said to myself: 'My God this can't be happening'."

She said she heard a bang and knew the bus had collided with her car but could not recall much as she passed in and out of consciousness.

Navan school teacher, Ms Janice Ledwidge, who was travelling behind Ms Gibney, said in a statement read to the jury that she saw the bus approaching side-on with its rear swinging in an anticlockwise direction.

She said the bus' impact with Ms Gibney's VW Polo caused the car to spin and collide with her vehicle.

Ms Leddwidge said the Polo's motor sounded like a "concertina" as it crashed into her silver Vauxhall on the driver's side. She said she recognised the bus as a Bus Éireann vehicle because its red logo was "embossed in my mind".

All the motorists giving evidence in the trial acknowledged that the surface of the R153 Navan to Kentstown road was wet as it had been raining heavily that day.

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

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