Hen party death driver to be sentenced today

James Johnson, from Wyke, will be sentenced today.James Johnson, from Wyke, will be sentenced today.
James Johnson, from Wyke, will be sentenced today.
A hen party minibus driver from Wyke faces sentence today over the death of a teenager in a horror motorway crash.

James Johnson has admitted causing Bethany Jones’ death by dangerous driving on the M62 in April last year.

Miss Jones, 18, of Bradley Carr Terrace, South Elmsall, died from multiple injuries after the slow-moving minibus she was travelling in was in collision with an HGV near junction 32 at Pontefract.

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The minibus, which was carrying 20 women on a hen party to Liverpool, was shunted 45m off the carriageway and ended up on its side on the slip road.

The devastating crash also left 19 other female passengers injured.

Johnson, 64, admitted his role in the crash on September 29. His sentencing was adjourned until after the conclusion of the trial of trucker Kevin Ollerhead, 45.

The lorry driver, who was in collision with the bus, was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving , by a jury on October 24.

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He was also cleared of an alternative count of causing death by careless driving.

During Mr Ollerhead’s trial, Leeds Crown Court heard about Johnson’s “idiotic actions”. The trial heard how the minibus set off from the Chequers Pub in South Elmsall at 11.30am on April 26, 2013 for Stefanie Firth’s hen do in Liverpool. It developed a mechanical fault and the passengers called on Johnson to investigate a burning smell.

But prosecutor Bryan Cox QC told how Johnson only made a “cursory examination” on the hard shoulder of the A1 near Darrington.

He added: “But there after he resumed the journey, driving the coach onto the M62. Signs of the mechanical failure were obvious - the speed of the coach reduced to a snail’s pace.

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“So much so that his speed of travel posed an obvious danger to other road users, some of whom sounded their horns.”

The court heard how Mr Ollerhead’s truck was travelling at about 52mph in a line of traffic behind the minibus.

A lorry in front of him pulled out and he was suddenly confronted with the slow-moving minibus.

He said there was nothing he could have done to avoid the collision. Miss Jones’ sister, Amy Firth - who was also on the minibus - told the court in a statement: “The minibus (driver) should never have carried on driving with the bus in that state because he should have just come off the motorway.

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“That short journey changed my life and that of my family’s. My sister and best friend Beth was taken from me by the idiotic actions of that minibus driver.”

Johnson, of Whytecote End, Wyke, is expected to be sentenced this morning.