A DRIVER ploughed into the back of a minibus on the M62, shunting it 50 yards along the road and causing the death of an 18-year-old woman on board, while his lorry was on cruise control, a court has heard.
Bethany Jones was among 20 women travelling to a hen party in Liverpool when their coach – travelling at less than 6mph and with a badly burnt-out clutch – was hit near Pontefract by an articulated lorry driven at 52mph by Kevin Ollerhead, Leeds Crown Court was told yesterday.
Ollerhead, 45, of Lincoln Crescent, St Helens, denies the charge of causing death by dangerous driving.
Prosecutor Bryan Cox QC said the collision happened after the 24-seater coach suffered mechanical problems and came to a “near standstill” on the motorway on April 26 last year.
The coach driver, James Johnson, 64, of Whytecote End, Wyke, pleaded guilty to causing Miss Jones’s death by dangerous driving at an earlier hearing but Mr Cox said his driving was “not the sole cause” of the tragedy.
He said: “An additional and significant cause of the accident was Kevin Ollerhead’s driving, which, submit the prosecution, fell far short, far below, the standard to be expected of a competent and careful driver. He too is guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and he too bears some responsibility.”
The prosecutor told the court the coach left South Elmsall just after 11am and the passengers quickly became aware of a burning smell. Johnson stopped the coach but said he could not find a problem and continued the journey. Its speed reduced to around 5.5mph in the nearside lane of the M62, just after junction 32, near Pontefract. Mr Cox said: “A number of vehicles avoided it by steering into the middle lane. Kevin Ollerhead did not.”
The court heard that Ollerhead would have had a clear view of the coach for 6.6 seconds but there was no evidence he applied his brakes before the impact.
The jury heard that Ollerhead told police that there was nothing he could have done to avoid the collision. The trial continues.