Death of teen killed by minibus driven by teacher ruled accident

Ashley Talbot
Ashley Talbot

A schoolboy killed when he ran out into the path of a minibus being driven by his PE teacher died accidentally, a jury has ruled.

Ashley Talbot was running with a friend in a bid to be the first on his bus home when he was in collision with the minibus in South Wales on December 10 2014.

The 15-year-old motorcross fan and budding mechanic went under one of the wheels of the vehicle, which was on its way to an after-school rugby match, and died at the scene outside the school.

After three hours' deliberations the jury at Aberdare Coroner's Court this week returned a majority conclusion of accidental death.

Andrew Barkley, coroner for Powys, Bridgend and Glamorgan Valleys, said he would be writing a Preventing Future Deaths report highlighting his concerns.

Dozens of people who heard or saw the incident or its aftermath at Maesteg Comprehensive School in Bridgend, gave evidence at the four-day inquest.

The jury heard how driver Christopher Brooks prayed that he had hit a school bag rather than a person after he felt the minibus lift over something in the road and how he would not have had time to react before striking Ashley.

He said: "I braked as hard and quickly as I could but there was not enough time."

Ashley's friend also collided with the vehicle and suffered minor injuries.

The friend said he and Ashley were to blame for the accident because "they should not have been running and they had been taught while growing up (not to)", in evidence that was read to the jury.

Mr Brooks was questioned by officers and South Wales Police announced in January last year that he would not face police action.

The road, which was lined on both sides by parked buses, was described as "an accident waiting to happen" by a bus driver who said the end of the school day was like "free-for-all".

He said children were walking and running across the road from between parked vehicles, as buses and cars were driven along the road in both directions.

Several pupils said they had either seen or been involved in previous near-misses between vehicles and students.

Bus driver Hedley Williams, who was standing nearby when Ashley was hit, told the hearing: "I always thought it was an accident waiting to happen."

He added that he spoke to teachers about it, telling the jury: "I had the impression that I needed to keep quiet as I was only a bus driver."

Mr Williams said there had been a similar incident the Monday before the accident when two pupils walked in front of the school minibus and were shouted at by the driver who managed to stop in time.

He said the school adopted new policies after Ashley's death, which included extending the bus bays so they could all park on one side of the road.

The inquest heard there was now a ban on vehicle movements between 2.55pm and 3.10pm.

Pc Christopher Street, a forensic collision investigator, said the two boys would have been running at between 6mph and 10mph, while Mr Brooks was probably driving at between 14mph and 17mph before the accident.

Maesteg Comprehensive was built by a private finance initiative on the site of a former coal washery and replaced the existing split-site school when it opened.

More than 250 mourners attended Ashley's funeral, which was held two days before Christmas 2014.

Mr Barkley told the court he would be addressing his report to the school and the local authority, and sending copies to the Local Government Association and the Welsh Government.

"My intention is to make a report. My report will be in relation to the design of the school and the operation thereafter," he said.

"The purpose of the Preventing Future Deaths report is to bring to the attention of the authorities the risk of death and place on the public record the concerns I have and the hope the wider circulation will reduce the chances of a tragedy occurring."

Former head teacher Anne Carhart, who is now known as Anne Rees, said the 1,200-pupil school was built on a plateau and had a dead-end, purpose-built road leading up to it.

She said the road at the end of the day was often "very, very chaotic" when the school opened in 2008.

By 2014, she said buses would park on both sides of the road and there had been a number of improvements made. She said at the time of the accident, it was still very busy, but running smoothly.

When asked if there was ever a point that she was happy with the system for pupils arriving at and leaving the site, Mrs Rees said: "We were never satisfied with the system; we were always very vigilant."