Lorry driver’s 15-tonne steam engine load crushed bus passengers after it fell in horror crash
A lorry driver has been jailed after his 15-tonne steam engine load fell off and crushed a bus load of passengers. Philip Last, 53, caused six people to be seriously injured in the horror pile-up by not securing the “significantly heavy” load using straps and chains. A court heard one of his victims has been left disabled for life after the vintage steam engine fell from the side of his Daf Low Loader.
The victims were travelling on a public bus at the time of the horrific incident in West Mersea, Essex, on September 23, 2015. Last had denied six counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving but changed his pleas to guilty moments before he was due to stand trial last month.
Bus driver Michael Birch survived the horror crash (Photo: SWNS)
He was jailed for 18 months by Judge David Goodin at Ipswich Crown Court. Passing sentence, the judge said: “You took a short cut and you know you took a shortcut and you knew what you had done was defective and couldn’t bring yourself to face it.
“Any sentence that I can lawfully pass here does not address the agony, injury and suffering of your six most seriously injured victims but it must be one of immediate imprisonment.” As a result of the incident, First bus driver Michael Birch was left with life-threatening injuries. These included a protruding bowel, two broken shoulders, a broken arm, a punctured lung and a fractured pelvis.
Philip Last had not secured the load properly (Photo: SWNS)
He miraculously survived his injuries but is still undergoing surgery 17 months later.
Five other victims also sustained extremely serious injuries, with at least one being disabled for life. At the time of the incident, Last had been employed by RM Cowles Transport for six years. The company had been contracted to transport the steam engine, which was based in East Mersea, Essex to and from a steam engine rally, in Ipswich, Suffolk.
Judge Goodin heard Last, who had a clean driving licence and had never been before a court before – also lost his job as a result of the incident. Richard Burrington, defending, added that Last had shown significant remorse and had helped the injured people at the scene.
The scene of the incident (Photo: SWNS)
He was also the first person to call the emergency services. Mr Burrington added: “The consequences are certainly not lost on the defendant.”
Paramedics said a combination of Mr Birch’s small build and the fact he was driving an older bus, which had a bigger cab, helped save his life. Speaking five months after his injuries, Mr Birch said: “I remember waking up and the bus was a mess. “I looked down and saw my stomach and then I blacked out.”
Mr Birch was in hospital for a month and underwent seven operations including a skin graft from his thigh on to his right hand and using a piece of his hip bone to repair his index finger.
In a statement read out to the court, Last, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, said: “I am genuinely and truly sorry for the awful consequences which resulted from his failure to ensure the low loader was properly secured that day.”