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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 06:56 GMT
Inquest jury urged bus supervision
Stuart Cunningham-Jones
Stuart was on the top-deck of the bus when it crashed
BBC Wales can reveal that an inquest jury which heard how a pupil died in a bus crash has recommended that all buses carrying schoolchildren should be supervised.

The jury's recommendations were not made public at the hearing into the death of Stuart Cunningham-Jones, 12, last month.

He was killed and more than 30 others were injured in December 2002 after their double-decker bus careered off the road and hit a tree near the village of Ystradowen in the Vale of Glamorgan.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded at an inquest in Cardiff after the jury heard a boy had grabbed the steering wheel.

The jury's comments have since been sent to the Vale of Glamorgan Council by the coroner.

Stuart's parents, Joanna and David, said they were "elated" when they heard what the jury had said.

"This is common sense and the fact that the jury could see that gives you a lot more determination to carry on," said Mrs Cunningham-Jones.
We've lost our son yet no one's being held responsible and that's very difficult
Joanna Cunningham-Jones

Mr Cunningham-Jones described it as a vote of confidence.

"The 10 people that made up that jury were parents themselves and they understand the risks the children are going through being on those buses.

"Now we'll be calling on the government to change the legislation," he added.

A consultation group has now been set up by the Vale of Glamorgan council to look at the issue of school transport.

It will be chaired by Rob Quick, the council's director of environmental and economic regeneration.

He said the supervision of children needed to be looked at.

"At the moment the use of supervisors is actually quite rare throughout Wales and if this was to be implemented it would have major implications for all councils," he said.

"The group has not been set up to have a further police investigation or a further inquest into this particular tragedy."

In a week long hearing, it was said that, during the journey from Cowbridge Comprehensive School to Talbot Green, a group of boys had continually tried to distract the driver.

David and Joanna Cunningham-Jones
Stuart's parents have welcomed the recommendations
Seconds before the bus left the road near the village of Ystradowen, one of the four grabbed the steering wheel.

The jury was told that rowdy behaviour had been a serious problem on the bus in the weeks leading up to the crash.

In a letter to the Vale of Glamorgan Council, Coroner Dr Lawrence Addicott said the jury had made seven recommendations.

They included that all school buses should have trained and qualified escorts, and that a liaison officer should be appointed by the local authority to monitor behaviour on buses carrying schoolchildren.

The jury also said the use of a controversial rule allowing three children under fourteen to sit on a seat designed for two adults should be reviewed.

Mrs Cunningham-Jones said there was "a lot of anger there" because of what had happened to Stuart.

" It's difficult to put into words. We've lost our son yet no one's being held responsible and that's very difficult.

"I'm bitter and angry but you have to keep that under control really."

Mr Cunningham-Jones said there was a "sense of a lack of justice."

"We've lost our son yet no one has put their hand up to say 'I'm awfully sorry - it was our fault'."

In June last year the CPS decided there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone in connection with the crash.


SEE ALSO:
Head's fears for bus pupils
30 Jan 04  |  Wales
Seating laws put to the test
19 Jan 04  |  Wales
Safety campaign could claim victory
21 Jun 03  |  South East Wales


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