Bus driver may have had ‘micro-sleeping incident’ before fatal A47 crash, coroner hears

PUBLISHED: 17:21 26 August 2020 | UPDATED: 18:26 26 August 2020

A pre-inquest review into the deaths of two men after a collision between a bus and a lorry on the A47 in 2018 heard that the bus driver, Michael Elcombe, may have been involved in an

A pre-inquest review into the deaths of two men after a collision between a bus and a lorry on the A47 in 2018 heard that the bus driver, Michael Elcombe, may have been involved in an "incident of micro-sleeping or nodding off". Pictured is the scene following the crash. Picture by Terry Harris,

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A bus driver who died after colliding with a lorry on the A47 two years ago may have previously been involved in an “incident of micro-sleeping or nodding off”, a coroner has heard.

Assistant coroner Simon Milburn heard the submission at a pre-inquest review into the deaths of Michael Elcombe, 45, and Brian Chapman, 76, who both died after the crash at Thorney Toll on June 26, 2018.

Mr Elcombe, of Cley Road, Swaffham was driving a double decker bus travelling between Peterborough and Wisbech before it collided with an HGV. Mr Chapman, of Cherry Road, Kettering and a passenger on the bus, also died at the scene.

Mr Milburn, who held the hearing at Peterborough Town Hall today (August 26), said the HGV was being driven by an employee of Bretts Transport.

The company wants the inquest to include “how Mr Elcombe was permitted to drive the bus without investigation into the previously reported incident of micro-sleeping, or nodding off, or similar condition”.

Mr Milburn said his preliminary view was that “an investigation at this stage would be appropriate” into the alleged incident of micro-sleeping.

Mike Atkins, representing First Eastern Counties, said that Mr Elcombe underwent training and an assessment when he joined the company, and no concerns were raised.

Referring to Mr Elcombe’s sleeping patterns, Mr Atkins said there were no issues about Mr Elcombe from when he joined First Eastern Counties in 2004.

“Any such incident would be more than 10-years-old. We can’t see how investigating an incident that age is likely to assist the inquests,” he said.

Mr Milburn was told that four other people may have known more about Mr Elcombe’s alleged incident before joining First Eastern buses.

MORE: Men who died in A47 bus and lorry crash are named

He said: “As far as the earlier incident regarding Mr Elcombe’s driving is concerned, I am going to keep an open mind and invite the bus company to provide such information and statements as they can in relation to that incident.

“I think it would be helpful to have an overview statement from somebody at Bretts to set out the background for the company, what goes on at the site, details about vehicle movements once you’ve had chance to investigate it.” The inquests were adjourned.

Mr Elcombe’s son, Lee, was in attendance, while Mr Chapman’s niece, great-niece and sister Pamela Elson were also present.

The inquests were adjourned until further evidence has been received. The deadline for First Eastern buses and Bretts Transport to provide more information to the coroner is October 7.

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