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Inquest hears of holiday coach crash horror

PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 September 2009 | UPDATED: 11:59 06 July 2010

The chilling moment that a lorry ploughed into a coach resulting in the horrific death of a Suffolk teenager and a Norfolk school secretary and coach driver was relived by a key witness yesterday.

The chilling moment when a lorry ploughed into a coach resulting in the horrific death of a Suffolk teenager, a Norfolk school secretary and a coach driver was relived by a key witness yesterday.

Promising student Stuart Dines, Norwich School's Jane Irving and Gorleston driver Ronald Lees died after a German autobahn crash in February 2006.

The start of a two-day inquest yesterday heard that the three were killed after a German lorry driver crashed into the stationary coach carrying pupils, including Stuart, from Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham

Shortly after the smash outside Cologne, the lorry was hit by a coach taking 36 Norwich School children to a skiing holiday in Austria.

The second crash killed 53-year-old mother of two Mrs Irving and the coach's assistant driver Mr Lees, 69.

Following the deadly crashes, the German lorry driver received a two-year suspended prison sentence.

As well as hearing grim details of the incident, Yarmouth coroner Keith Dowding criticised German authorities for not handing over vital tachograph information from veh-icles involved in the crash, in which more than 100 people were injured.

Yesterday's hearing was told that the school coach party of 55 pupils from Thomas Mills High School had pulled over to a hard shoulder off the A4 in the early hours of February 11 because of a punctured tyre.

Despite leaving out warning lights and switching on all the coach's lights, the parked vehicle was hit by the German lorry driver, who was believed to be travelling at 90kph.

Coach driver Derek Jewell was checking the warning lights when the lorry hit the coach and shunted it 70ft into a field. He said: "I saw there was a lorry coming along the inside lane drifting towards the solid white line. It brushed past me. As I span around it proceeded to drive into the near rearside of the coach. There was a lot of flying debris, a lot of sparks."

Stuart, 14, from Woodbridge, died shortly after the collision from a severe head injury when he was struck and pinned down by a metal pole.

His PE teacher Mark Harding was at the youngster's side in the coach as his life began to fade away.

He said: "He was trapped, unconscious and unresponsive. I kept talking to Stuart. I then felt his pulse get weaker."

Minutes after the crash, the Ambassador coach based in Yarmouth, carrying 36 Norwich School pupils and five staff members, crashed into the German lorry.

Experienced coach driver and father of two Mr Lees died from crush injuries to the brain and Mrs Irving died two days after the accident from multiple injuries.

The inquest heard that during the coach's journey across Europe, the main driver, Brian Marjoram, had got lost, hit plastic bollards as he drove aboard a ferry and missed slip roads.

When quizzed about Mr Marjoram's driving, Ambassador coach transport manager Barry Picton said: "He never had a problem with his driving."

At the start of yesterday's hearing, coroner Keith Dowding said one of the reasons the inquest was taking place three years after the crashes was because German authorities had refused to hand over tachograph information from vehicles involved in the crash.

The inquest at Yarmouth Magistrates' Court continues today.

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