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M4 deaths: ‘Lorry driver had no time to react’

Inquest into fatal crash hears Prior’s Court minibus ‘seemed to stop on motorway’

Firefighter Mike hailed for his action A NEWBURY firefighter who was the first on the scene of the Prior’s Court crash has received an award. Mike Dumas was off duty when the collision occurred on the M4 between Hungerford and Chieveley. Mr Dumas, who is based at Newbury Fire Station, received emergency respon- der of the year for the action he took following the fatal crash. Three young people with autism – who were on the minibus – have also been recognised for their bravery. Mr Dumas and deputy chief fire officer Steve Foye visited Prior’s Court last Friday to present the three young people – Ricardo, Ben and Peter – with awards. Prior’s Court chief executive Mike Robinson said: “I want to pay special recognition to those who attended the scene and how they coped with being faced with three severely-autistic young people, none of who had any verbal language, and all were understandably very anxious and in pain. “At Prior’s Court we spend years under- standing the unique ways our young people see the world so we can help them cope with life better. “The extraordinary professionals on the scene had to manage this situation Crash survivor Ricardo gives a thank you card to firefighter Mike Dumas

Report by JOHN HERRING email john.herring@newburynews.co.uk twitter johnh_nwn

A CRASH that killed three members of staff at Prior's Court School was caused when their minibus seemed to stop on the motorway, an inquest has heard. The collision, between the minibus and a lorry, occurred on the M4 east- bound carriageway between Hunger- ford and Chieveley almost a year ago to the day – on October 11, 2018. The hard shoulder was closed off at the time because of Highways England works. Autism practitioners Lorraine MacLellan, 60, and Jason Aleixo, 44, died in the collision, while 52-year-old Cather- ine Gardiner – who was driving the minibus – died in hospital the next day. The inquest into the tragedy, which opened at Reading Town Hall yesterday (Wednesday), heard how the minibus “appeared to be travelling at five miles per hour”. Giving evidence, lorry driver Graham Scivier said he had attempted to swerve to avoid hitting the vehicle, but “only had about two seconds to react”. Dashcam footage from his lorry, show- ing the moment of the collision, was played to the coroner’s court. It showed that Mr Scivier had been travelling at 53mph in the inside lane when he was overtaken by another lorry, driven by Stephen Hall. Mr Hall’s lorry then pulled in front of Mr Scivier, but swerved back out into the middle lane a few seconds later. The inquest heard that with his vision obscured by the large vehicle in front, Mr Scivier had no time to react to the Prior’s Court minibus that had appeared in front of him.

Catherine Gardiner

Jason Aleixo

Lorraine MacLellan

back in that it was coming toward me. “It was as if someone had taken their foot off the accelerator and driven back- wards in a straight line.” The inquest heard from a witness Darren Hall-Chapman who said that the minibus appeared to be travelling at about 5mph just before the crash. In a statement, he said: “About 10ft behind was a lorry. I saw it brake and the driver tried to swerve and couldn’t and he hit the minibus.” Mr Scivier said he was aware of other vehicles in front of him, but not specifi- cally the minibus. n Continued on page 5

ing, but couldn’t properly. “She was shouting, panicking because of something that happened and she can’t manage this situation.” Mr Mihof said he was not worried about Ms Gardiner’s driving. Mr Hall told the inquest that after pulling in front of Mr Scivier at 56mph, the minibus “was like a wall coming towards me”. He said: “There were no lights, no hazards, no brakes. It just flew past me and it was at this point that I knew the minibus was in trouble. “I was not aware of the minibus slow- ing down until seconds after pulling

Staff member Svilen Mihof, who was sat in the front of the minibus, with Ms Gardiner told the inquest that every- thing was fine until the bus started juddering and shaking. He added that Ms Gardiner was hold- ing the gear stick saying: “Oh my God! Oh my God!” He said: “I started to think why has the bus started shaking? I didn’t have time to say something because every- thing was very quick. “It was a big shake, but I didn’t know what was the problem. I have never seen this problem before. “It looked like the engine was work-

from a standing start. n Continued on page 5

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