THE judge who imposed fines totalling €2.2 million on Bus Éireann, Keltank Ltd and Meath County Council over the Navan bus crash said the tragedy should not have happened and was entirely avoidable.
Five schoolgirls were killed when the school bus crashed near Kentstown, Co Meath in May 2005.
Judge Pat McCartan said the bus would not have spun out of control and collided with cars before ending up on a ditch if the vehicle’s anti-lock breaking system (ABS) was working.
“I am satisfied that if the bus had ABS none of this would have happened,” he said before fining Bus Éireann €2m for breaches of the Health and Safety Act.
Meath County Council and Keltank, a garage that serviced the bus, were each fined €100,000 at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after pleading guilty to charges in relation to the crash.
None of the victims’ families were present Judge McCartan said the absence of ABS was a significant factor that led to the fatalities and that Bus Éireann must take “direct responsibility” for the accident.
The five schoolgirls who died were Lisa Callan, 15, Clare McCluskey, 18, Amy McCabe, 15, Deirdre Scanlon, 17, and Sinead Ledwidge, 15.
Bus Éireann admitted it failed to ensure the bus was maintained in a safe condition in that the ABS was not working and it failed to instruct the driver, John Hubble, in relation to it.
Earlier, Sonya Kelly, for Keltank, said she and the company were devastated that they did not recognise that the absence of a working ABS on the bus could “give rise to a hazard”.
She became tearful and lost for words when trying to express the company’s deep regret and remorse.
Martin Nolan for Bus Éireann said that immediately after the accident, they called in outside experts to help undertake a radical overhaul of their operations.
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