A bus driver who collected dozens of schoolchildren each day had 49 defects on his vehicle — seven of which were classed as dangerous. Martin Hewitt appeared at Letterkenny District Court in County Donegal facing a number of charges after his bus was inspected by gardaí.
It followed concerns expressed by the Road Safety Authority when they were made aware of a defective bus which was doing school runs. Garda Sgt Vincent Muldoon said that, on February 22, 2018, he went to Murlog National School in Lifford and saw 39 schoolchildren getting off a bus.
He spoke to Mr Hewitt, the driver, and told him that the RSA wanted the bus to be inspected at a local garage in Letterkenny.
Sgt Muldoon told the court that, having tested the vehicle, mechanics found a total of 49 defects, seven of which they classified as “dangerous”. These included an emergency door which would not open properly, as well as the floor which he said “moved”.
The court heard that Hewitt bought the bus for £3,000 in the North a few months earlier and it was covered by a test of roadworthiness.
Mr Hewitt’s solicitor, Donough Cleary, said this test expired in January and that Mr Hewitt had brought the bus to McDaid’s Garage in Letterkenny who outlined a number of areas of work which needed to be completed.
Mr Cleary said his client accepts that the work should have been done. He said the bus has since been scrapped.
Mr Hewitt did not have any contracts with Bus Éireann for school runs but carried out the bus run for children who did not qualify for free school transport in the area. He had been running such a service for 12 years.
However, Judge Paul Kelly said that what Mr Hewitt, a father of four of Clonleigh Park Lifford, was doing was dangerous.
“It seems extraordinary that this bus was allowed on the road,” said Judge Kelly. “He was driving for close to two months without a certificate of roadworthiness to collect schoolchildren. It was a very dangerous situation.”
He fined Hewitt €250.