Man who caused bus crash death avoids jail

The bus hit a nearby cottage. Picture: Gordon Fraser
The bus hit a nearby cottage. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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A MAN whose careless driving caused the death of an elderly ex-serviceman has avoided prison.

Colin Snell,69, failed to stop at a give way sign at junction on the A1087 road near Dunbar, East Lothian, on September 18 2013.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how Mr Snell travelled onto another road and struck a passing bus. The force of the collision caused the public transport vehicle to strike a nearby cottage.

The accident also caused bus passenger Alexander Shiell, 79, to be thrown from his seat and striking a handrail before landing on the aisle.

Mr Shiell, who once served with the Royal Air Force, then died from his injuries at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary hospital in February 2014.

On Thursday, Snell was handed 200 hours community service and banned from driving for three years by Sheriff Thomas Welsh.

Sheriff Welsh told Snell that his good character and his age meant that he didn’t have to impose a jail sentence.

Sheriff Welsh said: “I have no doubt that driving displaying the level of carelessness and the degree of culpability for which you are responsible would in the absence of an alternative means of disposal attract a custodial sentence.

“However, I must be satisfied custody is the only appropriate disposal before I can impose it.

“In your case I am not so satisfied. Given your age, your previous good character and driving record, I am satisfied that there is an alternative punishment to custody.”

The story emerged last month when Mr Snell, of Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, pleaded guilty to a charge of causing the death of Mr Shiell, of East Linton, East Lothian, by driving without undue care and attention.

Sentence had been deferred until Thursday for the court to obtain reports about Snell’s character.

At earlier proceedings, depute procurator fiscal Graeme Jessop told Sheriff Thomas Welsh that the collision happened at 10.13am when road conditions were good.

Mr Jessop told the court that Mr Snell was with his wife Patricia when he drove his grey Vauxhall Antara car through a ‘give way’ sign at Shore Road onto Edinburgh Road.

Mr Jessop added: “As the bus approached the junction with Shore Road, the accused’s motor car failed to stop at the give way line at the junction and continued onto Edinburgh Road and collided with the front offside of the bus.

“As a result of the collision, the bus veered off to the left and struck Benston Cottage where it came to rest imbedded in the brickwork.

“Such was the impact that Alexander Shiell was thrown from his seat, whereby he apparently collided with a handrail within the bus prior to landing on the aisle near to the driver sustaining life threatening injuries.

“Another vehicle was travelling eastbound on Edinburgh Road at the time. The driver of the vehicle witnessed the collision but was able to avoid the collision and stop.

“The emergency services were contacted.

“Police vehicles, several ambulances, three fire appliances and three further specialist fire and rescue support vehicles attended the scene.

“The ambulance personnel attended to the injured parties.”

Mr Jessop said that the bus driver Mark Gray,40, and a number of passengers including Mr Shiell received medical treatment or were taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

In November 2013, the court heard how Mr Snell attended Dalkeith police station with his solicitor to be interviewed by police officers about the incident.

Mr Jessop said: “When interviewed he advised he had picked up his wife from the swimming pool at Dunbar and was intending to drive to Dunfermline.

“He stated that he had travelled along Shore Road twice before and was not that familiar with the area.

“However, he was familiar with the give way junction at the crossroads and the relevant signs and markings.

“He was asked whether he had seen the bus and replied ‘when it hit me yes.’

“He elected to make no further comment.”

The court heard that accident investigators established Mr Snell was to blame for the collision.

The court also heard that in the months following the collision, Mr Shiell’s health worsened. He developed pneumonia and he passed away at 11.30am on February 5 2014.

Speaking about Mr Sheill, Mr Jessop said: “Alexander Dodds Shiell was born on June 18 1935. He was 79 years old when he died. He was brought up and educated in Edinburgh.

“He completed five years service as an aircraft technician with the RAF.”

The court heard how the collision had been caused by a “momentary lapse of attention”.

The court also heard that Snell should be fined and given penalty points for his actions.

But Sheriff Welsh ruled that Snell’s driving on the day in question was incompetent.

He added: “You were not paying sufficient attention to the general and specific road conditions and you caused this collision.

“This collision was entirely your fault and you will have to live with the fact that you alone caused all this damage, injury and loss of life for the rest of your life.

“Had you been paying proper attention and complied with the highway code, this collision would not have occurred.

“Your driving fell far below what would be expected of a competent and careful drive that day.”