A coach driver with an “impeccable record” of driving all over Europe caused an eight-vehicle crash in which an 11-year-old boy suffered potentially life-changing injuries.
William Terry Morgan was behind the wheel of a single-decker coach travelling from Pontardawe during morning rush hour on June 4 last year when he ploughed into the back of a queue of stationary traffic on the A4067.
The collision with the cars in front of the coach caused a “domino effect” resulting in damage to seven other vehicles plus a number of injuries to people inside with the most serious being to the 11-year-old child.
Swansea Crown Court was told the young victim was taken by air ambulance to Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff while his anguished father was taken to Morriston Hospital for emergency treatment where he waited to learn of his son’s condition.
Prosecutor Paul Hobson said: “The prosecution says the defendant would have had a good view of the road ahead and he agreed with that at certain stages of the police investigation.
“Although the road surface was wet he failed to react for some reason to the queue of traffic ahead and ploughed into the back.
“One witness described it as like a snow plough driving into the back of the vehicle and said it was a domino-like collision. In total seven vehicles were struck either by the coach of by other vehicles.”
Mr Hobson said a police investigation later revealed there had been no defects to the road surface and no contaminants on it with “high levels of grip albeit it was wet”.
A study of the coach’s tachograph later revealed the vehicle had been travelling at approximately 35mph coming down the hill towards the site of the collision but the brakes had been applied just 1.5 seconds before impact.
“The final conclusion when considering the view of the road to the driver, from an elevated position and with prior knowledge [of the stretch of road], meant it was entirely avoidable,” added Mr Hobson.
“Whether it was a distraction or day-dreaming he was not paying attention”.
The court was also told how the young victim suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the collision as well as a fracture to his left femur requiring a pin to be inserted.
He received treatment in intensive care for three weeks immediately following the accident and remained in hospital for a total of 10 weeks.
The court also heard he continues to have a range of therapies as part of his recovery and is having to re-learn how to stand and walk.
Ian Ibrahim, representing Morgan, said: “This gentleman is 76 years old and prior to this has led a blameless life.
“There are no alcohol or drugs issues and he is deemed low risk by the probation service.
“He was not using a mobile phone or texting, he was not drinking coffee or smoking a cigarette. In fact prior to this he had been driving well within the speed limit. There were no drink or drugs in his system.
“If one accepts the tachograph there was some braking. It was inadequate and too late and caused injury to a young lad and he knows that and he will have to live with that for the rest of his life.
“He accepts these are truly tragic consequences to this young child.”
The court was told Morgan, of Carmarthen Road in Cross Hands, had a clean driving licence for the past 56 years and had driven a coach for the past 35 during which time he had travelled all over Europe “without so much as a ticket”.
Sentencing, Judge Paul Thomas QC said: “You were grossly inattentive approaching this roundabout when you were driving a bus and this led to a calamitous collisioon involving seven other vehicles.
“The tailback was wholly to be expected at that time on that road and you have never put forward an explanation why you did not see the stationary traffic.
“It seems although the road was wet it does not explain your inattention. You only started to brake a few seconds before the impact.
“It means you were simply not looking at the road ahead of you. It caused a serious injury and a great deal of damage.
“The injury’s effect on the family has been profound. It was a major trauma not just for [the victim] but for everyone. Thankfully after a long and difficult road for him there appears to be improvement in the severe effects but he still has problems and the risk of later complications.
“No doubt he has suffered greatly as a result of this accident.”
However the judge noted Morgan’s “spotless and impeccable” record as a driver and a number of testimonials he had received “not just as a driver but as an individual”.
He added: “I have to bear in mind your age and the impact on you of the sentence. You have medical conditions that would make you vulnerable, particularly in these times of Covid.
Morgan, who had pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work. He was also disqualified from driving for three years after which he will have to carry out an extended driving test.