Idiot bus driver took away my best friend says M62 hen party victim

The sister of an 18-year-old woman who died when a minibus taking a group of women to a hen party was hit by a lorry, told a court today that the “idiotic actions” of the bus driver took away her best friend.

Amy Firth in a wheelchair at the funeral of her sister Bethany Jones. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Amy Firth was one of 20 women travelling to the hen party in Liverpool when their minibus was hit on the M62 in West Yorkshire by an articulated truck, Leeds Crown Court heard.

Many of the women suffered serious injuries in the crash in April last year but Bethany Jones was the only one of the party that died.

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Today, in a statement read to a jury at Leeds Crown Court, Ms Firth said: “That short journey changed my life and that of my family.

Kevin Ollerhead at Leeds Crown Court. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

“My sister and best friend Beth was taken from me by the idiotic actions of that minibus driver.”

The jury heard a number of women in the hen party describe how they set off from South Elmsall, West Yorkshire, heading for a weekend in Liverpool ahead of the wedding of Stefanie Firth.

As soon as the minibus got on to the A1, they could smell burning and forced the driver to stop to check his vehicle.

After the journey continued and the minibus moved on to the M62 it slowed to a crawl, they said.

Ms Firth described in her statement how other vehicles were honking their horns at them because the bus was going so slow.

She said: “The next thing I remember was waking up and the bus being laid on its side.”

She said her right leg was “not in its right position”.

Ms Firth said: “I started shouting our Beth. I continued shouting our Beth but go no reply. I was shouting to mum, ‘I can’t hear our Beth’.”

She said she was “crying and screaming” at the time.

Ms Firth said the minibus driver “should never have carried on driving” with the vehicle in that condition.

Her mother, Diane Jones, told the court in a statement how the hen party revellers were “laughing and joking” and were “very excited” before they set off.

Mrs Jones said that on the M62 she heard a sound “I would describe as an explosion”.

She said she was trapped inside the stricken minibus, and could hear daughter Amy shouting but could not hear Bethany.

The minibus driver, James Johnson, 64, of Whytecote End, Wyke, Bradford, pleaded guilty to causing Miss Jones’s death by dangerous driving at an earlier hearing, the jury has heard.

Truck driver Kevin Ollerhead, 45, of Lincoln Crescent, St Helens, Merseyside, is on trial charged with the same offence.

Bryan Cox QC, opening the case for the prosecution yesterday, told the jury of eight women and four men that the collision happened after the 24-seater coach suffered mechanical problems and came to a “near standstill” on the motorway.

Other vehicles avoided the coach but Ollerhead, who was driving the lorry on a cruise control set to 52mph, drove straight into the back of the bus, shunting it 50 yards along the road and into a crash barrier.

Miss Jones died after suffering multiple injuries. All the other passengers on the coach, who were from the Pontefract area, were injured, some severely.

Mr Cox told the jury the speed of the coach gradually reduced to a “snail’s pace” until it was travelling at just 5.5mph in the nearside lane of the M62, just after junction 32, near Pontefract.

He said Ollerhead would have had a clear view of the coach for 6.6 seconds and 154 metres but there was no evidence that he applied his brakes before the impact.

Ollerhead denies causing death by dangerous driving.

The court heard that Ollerhead would have had a clear view of the coach for 6.6 seconds and 154 metres but there was no evidence that he applied his brakes before the point of impact.

Mr Cox said: “For a period of 6.6 seconds when the coach was fully in view the defendant simply failed to act to avoid a collision.”

The prosecutor described the impact as being “to all intents and purposes a head-on collision”. The coach was left lying on its side across the exit sliproad.

The jury was told that Ollerhead gave a statement to police in which he said he could not recall braking or steering but there was nothing he could have done to avoid the collision.

The trial continues.