• Five children taken to hospital after a double-decker school bus crashed into a railway bridge in Headbourne Worthy
  • Ten students have also suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene
  • Pupils say bus driver was running 10 minutes late and did not normally take the route
  • Eyewitnesses described children 'screaming and crying' following the collision

THE roof of a double-decker school bus has been ripped off after the driver smashed into a railway bridge in Headbourne Worthy, leaving five children in hospital and 10 more needing treatment.

Seventy-two pupils were on board the Stagecoach bus heading for Henry Beaufort School, in Harestock, when it crashed into a bridge in Wellhouse Lane at 8.10am on Thursday.

Three youngsters were to taken hospital with serious injuries while 12 others suffered minor injuries, two of which have since been taken to hospital however their injuries are still being treated as minor.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Jake Coates, 14, who lives nearby and had just been picked up by the bus, said the driver had taken a shortcut because the service was running 10 minutes late.

The Year 10 pupil said: "The first thing I was thinking, had anyone been crushed on the top of the bus or anything really bad had happened up on the top.

"When we got out of the bus, I could see people jumping out of the back windows and workers from nearby were catching people who were jumping out the back.

"It was quite scary, I was really shocked, I didn't know if anyone was still inside the bus, trapped.

"A lot of people were screaming, they were shouting like they were going to die, the dust came through as if the bridge was going to collapse."

He said some of his friends had suffered cuts to their legs and one to their top.

Jake said the bus was being driven by a new driver but he had not been going fast.

He continued: "The bus came this route today because it was a couple of minutes late, it might have been 10 minutes late, so it took a different... tried to take a shortcut, which didn't go well."

The driver of the bus has not been arrested but has spoken to police and given their account of what took place.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Speaking about destruction, Incident Commander Inspector Andy Tester from the Road Policing Unit said: “It does show that there must have been quite a significant impact between the bus and the bridge parapet and that has completely removed the roof front to back and that does take a degree of force.

"There are various systems in the bus that will tell us how fast the bus was going, we believe there was CCTV in the bus that will give us vital information about what happened in the immediate moments before this crash."

Inspector Tester said that it “was lucky” that that were no fatalities in the incident.

He added: “For all the emergency services from ambulance and police that turned up initially it was a very difficult scene.”

Jake’s mother, Caroline Coates, 43, said she and her husband ran to the scene to help when they heard the crash.

The A&E nurse said: “It was quite surreal, it was a lot of screaming and crying – quite a few were bleeding.

“I saw my son was ok, I just went to the closest casualty I could see and just remained with her. Then a lot of people came out and my husband was helping with another girl.

“I just can’t believe that everybody walked off the bus.”

She added: "Obviously it shouldn't have happened, they have single-deckers that use this route."

Hampshire Chronicle:

Robert, another pupil at Henry Beaufort School, said he was uninjured but "shaken" after the crash.

The 15-year-old, who did not want to disclose his surname, told PA: "I was on the lower deck. I was on my phone when it actually happened. We went under the tunnel and I heard a crash, and I didn't think it was as major as it was, I didn't know what tunnel we were under.

"It took a little while to realise what was happening ... part of the roof fell down to the side of the bus that I was on.

"I waited for the people on the top deck to get off, and at that point I saw some of the bad injuries people had. I think everyone was in shock.

"When we got off the bus, everyone sat down on the grassy bank outside. People started to panic and phone parents, some people started to cry.

"It took like an hour maybe while everyone was sorted until we started to leave."

An eyewitness Lee Griffiths, who lives close to the scene, said: “I heard a crash and screams then I kind of guessed what had happened.

“Children were standing on the upper deck with the roof missing. The engine was still running and the driver was wandering about saying ‘I’m in trouble’.”

A spokeswoman for Stagecoach South confirmed that it is carrying out an internal investigation into the circumstances involved in the incident.

Hampshire police are in cooperation with the school, Hampshire County Council and the authority's education psychology team to help students and staff to deal with any trauma they may experience.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Henry Beaufort School headteacher Sue Hearle said: "This is a distressing incident and we are extremely relieved it was not more serious.

"With the help of Hampshire County Council's home to school transport and educational psychology teams we will be supporting all the students involved and their families.

"I do not want to speculate on the circumstances leading up to the incident but our thoughts go out to all those affected."