Passengers escape as bus hits bridge
PASSENGERS had a Christmas miracle escape last night when a double decker bus ploughed into a low bridge, shearing its roof off.
Local home-owners last night described how they scrambled to pull people from the wreckage after the vehicle crashed on The Avenue, Wallsend, North Tyneside, at around 3.45pm yesterday.
The bus, which was travelling from Newcastle to Wallsend, careered under the bridge and its roof was ripped off before it came to a stop on the opposite side.
Owners Stagecoach last night said three people who were on the top tier of the 14ft bus escaped with only cuts and bruises, whilst eyewitnesses said the shocked driver suffered a seizure at the scene. A spokesman from the firm also said the driver of the number 40 service, who has 20 years’ experience, had taken a wrong turn. Police and ambulance crews were called to the Metro bridge and the road was closed as specialist teams cleared the debris.
Karen Ballantyne, 43, a full-time carer, was one of those who rushed from her home to help the injured.
Last night she said she helped around 12 passengers off the bus and that it was a miracle none had been decapitated.
Karen said: “I just dived down and ran across the road to see if there was anything I could do to help. The people on the bus were saying they just had to dive to the floor because they could see they were going to hit the bridge.
“It’s amazing no-one was killed. I can’t believe the people on the top were not decapitated.”
The bridge has signs saying it is 12ft 3in high and is normally only used by single decker buses.
Metro services between Wallsend and Chillingham Road suffered delays for around an hour while structural engineers made sure there was no damage to the bridge.
It is not the first time a bus has crashed at The Avenue Metro bridge. In January 2002, two young women escaped major injury when another double decker bus hit the bridge and ripped the roof off.
Becky Moore, 17, of Wallsend, and a 20-year-old woman were on the top deck of the bus that ended up a mangled wreck.
Miss Moore, who lives near the scene of the crash, was carried from the bus on a stretcher with her head held in a neck brace.
Last night a Stagecoach spokesman confirmed an investigation had been launched and there had been no major injuries. He said: “Six passengers were on the bus at the time. Three passengers were seated towards the rear of the vehicle on the upper deck, most of which was sheared off as a result of the accident. Thankfully, we understand there were only minor injuries from flying glass to three passengers. The driver was also taken to hospital suffering from shock.
“Safety is our top priority and we have launched an investigation into the incident. The vehicle has been taken to our Walkergate depot where we will be looking to analyse CCTV footage of the incident as part of our investigation.”
A spokesman for the North East Ambulance Service said: “The ambulance received a 999 call with reports that a double decker bus had hit a low level bridge. Three casualties were taken to hospital. One was the driver and the other two were passengers sat on the top deck.”