Test firm owner told he would take ‘death of child to his grave’

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The trial relating to a fatal school bus crash heard yesterday (March 20) how the owner of a vehicle testing firm was told that he would take the death of the child to his grave.

The trial relating to a fatal school bus crash heard yesterday (March 20) how the owner of a vehicle testing firm was told that he would take the death of the child to his grave.

The bus went out of control on a bog road just outside Clara, Co Offaly on April 4, 2006 after the back 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 completely from the 1989 Mercedes 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 and modifications on the bus between August 5 and 6, 2005.

He told Diarmaid McGuinness SC, defending, that on the day of the accident, Tony Wynne, a Department of Environment vehicle tester, rang him to tell him what had happened.

The accused man said Mr Wynne met him at the crash site and told him that the back of the bus was rotten and the centre bolt had gone out of it.

Mr O’Reilly told the court: “He said, ‘that’s an old van at the back of it and you put it on. There’s a child dead. You’ll take that to the grave’. I said, that’s not nice to say.’”.

Mr O’Reilly said he told Mr Wynne that they should wait to see what happened.

Under cross examination from Caroline Biggs SC, prosecuting, Mr O’Reilly said he stood over the tests he carried out on the bus in 2005.

The jury have previously heard evidence that the modified spring system attached to the bus was subject to a safety recall notice in 1996. They have also heard that the previous owner of the bus, James Gaffey, replaced a damaged rear spring in 2003 with a second hand part.

Earlier in the trial Raymond McKeown of River Street, Clara, Co Offaly, who brought the bus off Mr Gaffey in September 2005, pleaded guilty to a single count of failing to maintain the bus under health and safety laws.

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