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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 January, 2004, 12:37 GMT
Fatal bus crash - 'child grabbed wheel'
Bus driver Reginald Davies
Reginald Davies said he could not have avoided hitting the tree
The driver of the bus on which a 12-year-old boy died has told an inquest that a child grabbed the steering wheel seconds before the crash.

Stuart Cunningham-Jones died and 30 Cowbridge Comprehensive school pupils were hurt as they travelled home on a bus which careered off the road and hit a tree near the village of Ystradowen in the Vale of Glamorgan, in December 2002.

Giving evidence on Thursday at Cardiff Coroner's Court, driver Reginald Davies broke down in tears as he explained there was nothing he could have done to avoid hitting the tree.

Having already stopped the bus once because some pupils' behaviour was becoming dangerous, he told the court how children had been fighting close to his cab and one boy had reached over to sound the horn and he pulled his arm away.

Mr Davies said: "I do not know whether he hit another lad but he was then pushed.

Stuart Cunningham-Jones
Stuart Cunningham-Jones was sitting on the top deck of the bus

"For a split second I did not realise it was an arm on the steering wheel, I just thought something had happened with the bus because I could not turn the steering wheel."

In tears, Mr Davies added: "He was grabbing the wheel to stop himself falling, I believe."

He said the front wheel had already having left the road, and braking hard could have turned over the bus causing more injuries.

Over the past there days of the inquest, there have been several different accounts of the final moments before the crash.

One boy, the jury heard, told police he was responsible because he had been messing around but later said he could not remember what he said in his statement, and claimed he fell into the driver's cab after falling when the bus went over a bump in the road.

Another version of events is that two boys were fighting over who was going to play with the ticket machine and another witness said a boy tried to reach over the driver to sound the horn, forcing the driver to push him away.

Bus crash at Ystradowen
The bus was carrying 72 children when it crashed

Another 14-year-old pupil said he was standing near the baggage rack of the bus when he saw another pupil distract the driver up to 10 times.

A motorist travelling in the opposite direction, told the court that he saw a boy standing behind the driver and appeared be "reaching across".

Before witnesses began giving evidence, Coroner for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Lawrence Addicott told the jury of seven men and three women, that no one was "on trial" and there were no sides.

The Crown Prosecution Service has already said no-one will face criminal charges over the death.

Stuart, a pupil at Cowbridge Comprehensive School, was sitting on the top deck of the service bus when it left the road.

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