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fatal road accident Teen killed in bus crash would be alive if vehicle was properly maintained, family say

Inquest hears family's trauma at son's death in bus crash

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Michael and Martina White with their daughter Ciara and son, Michael in happier times.

Michael and Martina White with their daughter Ciara and son, Michael in happier times.

Michael and Martina White with their daughter Ciara and son, Michael in happier times.

A teenager killed in a school bus crash 15 years ago would still be alive today if the vehicle in which he and 34 other children were travelling had been properly maintained, his family have said.

Fifteen-year-old Michael White's family spoke out after his inquest took place on Friday.

The inquest had been held up to allow for the prosecution of the bus owner Raymond McKeown and a company, O'Reilly Commercials Limited of Ballinalack, Mullingar, that had carried out a safety check on the vehicle.

The inquest returned a verdict that Michael's death, following a fatal road accident in Clara, Co. Offaly in 2006, was caused by "compression of the chest" due to a road traffic accident.

Several recommendations were also made, including an acknowledgment that buses similar to the one involved in the fatal road accident continue to be in operation and should be taken off the road.

In a heartbreaking statement, Michael's sister Ciara said afterwards: "As everyone in this room is aware; my brother, my parent's son was tragically taken away from us on 4th April 2006.

"It has been 15 years and three months of pain, loss, suffering and utter heartbreak.

"Michael had his whole life ahead of him. He would regularly talk about his hopes for the future, where he would go to college, places he would like to travel to, until his life was ripped away from him due to negligence.

"All of those opportunities were taken away from him. He was denied the chance to live the life he deserved and do all the great things he had planned to do.

"All the special moments and milestones in life that we don't get to share with Michael. I can't ring my brother on the phone or call to his house to share stories and memories or ask my big brother for advice as others would. We now spend these times at Michaels graveside. How is that fair?"

In her statement, Ciara White also addressed the owner of the bus.

"In your (Raymond McKeon) statement you made in August 2006, you talk about your family name being 'destroyed'.

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"What about our family name?

"Michael was Michael Henry White the fourth. Michael had a great interest in history, and he was so honoured that he was given the name of his father, grandfather and great grandfather.

"He often talked about the fact that someday his son would be Michael Henry the Fifth. But now that chain is broken.

"It is us who are suffering the consequences and enduring what we can only describe as internal torture every single day, and for the rest of our lives.

"The bus was not fit for the road, yet you chose to carry 35 teenagers to school and back on it every day.

"As a result of this negligence and carelessness, many lives have been turned upside down. But above all, our Michael is gone and is never coming back."

At Friday's inquest, the jury also recommended that all school bus drivers should have assistants on board.

Coroner Raymond Mahon apologised to the White family for the delay in holding the inquest and said it had been held up by ongoing legal proceedings - that only concluded in 2018 - and by the Covid pandemic.

A failure of the bus's rear suspension, which caused the back axle to detach, was identified as one of the key reasons for the crash.

Raymond McKeown, Clara Cabs, River Street, Clara, the owner of the bus, was previously given a 12- month suspended sentence for failing to maintain it in a safe condition.

The Mercedes bus was 17 years old and didn't have tax, insurance or a public service licence at the time of the crash.

The company which carried out a safety check on the bus, O'Reilly Commercials Limited of Ballinalack, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, was found guilty of failing to note the vehicle's modified rear suspension.

The comapny appealed the court's decision but lost the appeal in 2018.

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