Miraculous escape of 42 children in a coast-bound coach crash at Hilgay
PUBLISHED: 11:38 23 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:38 23 July 2014
© Archant Norfolk 2014
Forty-two children escaped with slight injuries after the bus they were travelling in on a day trip to Hunstanton veered off the A10 at Hilgay and crashed onto its side in a ditch.
The bus was in a convoy of three taking youngsters for an end of term trip to the coast when the accident happened around 11am on Tuesday.
Children told how they were scared and crying after the coach toppled onto its side but were kept calm by staff as they were guided off into an nearby field while paramedics treated some for shock and slight injuries.
The bus driver was cut free and taken to hospital for back injuries while traffic jams built up in the area as the road was closed by emergency services for six hours.
Year 1 pupil Libby Hull, six, said: “The driver felt poorly. The wheel of the coach hit a rock and then we fell into a ditch and the windscreen smashed.
“My chair was above me and I think I was sort of upside down.
“It was really scary, people on the other side to me were a bit sad and were crying.”
Emergency services, including four fire engines, attended the scene of the collision, between Dent’s Farm Shop and the Ely Road junction at Hilgay.
As parents back at William Westley Primary School in Whittlesford, on the outskirts of Cambridge, were sent news of the crash, pupils sang songs in a nearby field while they waited to board a coach back home.
Terry Hicks, who attended the incident for the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “Everyone was very calm and the children were a credit to both their parents and their teachers.
“Fortunately, we believe those on board were wearing seatbelts, otherwise this incident could have been a lot worse.”
A spokesman for the Confederation for Passenger Transport, the trade body for coach operators, said the coach was a modern vehicle fitted with lap belts and advised anyone on a coach trip to wear belts at all times.
Downham Market fire station manager Grant Cotterell praised the “absolutely fantastic” teachers who comforted the children and said it was one of the best examples of joint working he had seen.
He told how fire crews built a makeshift bridge over a dyke using boarding given by a local builder to provide access for the emergency services and casualty clearance.
Tesco’s Downham Market store staff stepped in to help by bringing water and biscuits for the children as they waited to go home.