Suspension bolt failure ‘at least 12 months’ before Clara bus crash

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A bolt was missing from the rear suspension of an Offaly school bus at least a year before the a fatal crash, a court heard on Monday.

A bolt was missing from the rear suspension of an Offaly school bus at least a year before the a fatal crash, a court heard on Monday.

By Declan Brennan

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The bus went out of control on a bog road just outside Clara, Co Offaly on April 4, 2006 after the rear drive axle came off. School boy Michael White (15) died as a result of “catastrophic injuries” suffered during the crash.

It is alleged that a missing bolt and fractures in the rear suspension springs resulted in the axle separating from the bus.

David O’Reilly, acting on behalf of vehicle testing firm O’Reilly Commercials Ltd of Ballinalach, Mullingar, Co Westmeath has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four charges relating to failing to note or verify defects on the bus between August 5 and 6, 2005.

On day 13 of the trial metallurgy expert Tony Horan told Caroline Biggs SC, prosecuting, that after examining the bus after the crash he concluded that a missing bolt had never being in place.

He said that if the right hand side spring bolt was never installed or that if it had been installed and failed then the failure occurred at least 12 months before the crash.

He also said that there had been cracks growing in the right hand-side springs for at least a year. He said these might not be easy to detect or discover.

Mr Horan said that the final failure of the right hand side spring occurred just days or weeks before the crash. The left hand spring was then left as the only connection point between the axle and the chassis and the rest of the bus.

He agreed with Michael Bowman BL, defending, that the left hand spring was then put under immense pressures as the bus travelled. He said it finally gave way in a split second, resulting in the axle coming off and the bus going out of control.

Mr Horan disagreed that the pressure on the right hand spring after it had become detached could have physically torn the bolt out. He said it this might damage the bolt but it would not fracture it.

Under cross examination he conceded that there was a reasonable possibility that the bolt was there when Mr O’Reilly tested the bus in 2005. He also agreed that there was a possibility that the second hand spring fitted to the bus in 2003 already had a fracture in it.

The trial continues before Judge Margaret Heneghan and a jury of ten men and two women.