United Kingdom

Bus driver jailed for killing 'promising' academic after crashing double-decker into railway bridge 

A bus driver who killed a 'promising' academic from China and seriously injured another student after crashing his double-decker into a railway bridge has been jailed.

Eric Vice, 64, was driving the service to Swansea University when its upper deck collided with a bridge as he took a detour from his usual route to 'beat a few minutes'.

Jessica Jing Ren, 36, a visiting lecturer from Huanghuai University in China, was one of a dozen people injured when the bridge tore into the bus's upper deck.

Eric Vice, 64, (pictured left) took the detour to avoid a few minutes' delay he had experienced  earlier in the day as he drove the bus. Mother Jessica Jing Ren, 36, (pictured right), who was sitting on the front seat of the top deck was airlifted to hospital but died 11 days later

The double-decker bus crashed into a railway bridge in Swansea, South Wales

She died from her injuries 11 days later.

Today Vice pleaded guilty at Swansea Crown Court to causing death by dangerous driving.

He also pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving in relation to aerospace engineering student Richard Thompson, 20, who required facial reconstruction after the incident.

Ms Wren, who had a five-year-old son with her Chinese lecturer husband, was unconscious and cut out of the bus 90 minutes later by firefighters.

She was airlifted to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, with spine injuries, leg fractures, lacerations, and a severe brain injury resulting in brain stem death.

The top deck of the bus was crumpled - with a section of the roof being thrown onto the rail line above the bridge

Prosecutor Carina Hughes said Vice had taken a different route to the university's Bay Campus while transporting 21 passengers after encountering morning traffic on December 12, 2019.

She said Vice drove past two height restriction warnings on a route used by the city's single decker park-and-ride buses as he headed for the stone arch bridge on Neath Road.

But the lower steel railway bridge further inside the opening collided with the bus and tore through the upper deck, as screaming passengers were thrown forward and the vehicle came to a halt.

Ms Wren, a lecturer from China who was studying and researching at the university, was sat in the front row of the upper deck at the time of the crash.

Pictures taken on-board show the black and yellow markings of the bridge coming through the bus's top deck. It sheared off the roof of the bus over the first half a dozen rows of seats

Among the passengers was American Olympic gold medallist Kevin Young, a masters student who suffered a head wound and two broken ribs, who described seeing Ms Wren hit the front windscreen.

The prosecutor said trapped passengers covered in debris had to crouch down in the flattened upper deck while they waited to be rescued, while Mr Young described smashing parts of the windscreen which were lying on Mrs Ren's legs.

She added: 'Mr Young says she was slowly trying to mouth some words to him, but it was inaudible.

'He described that he held her hand to try and comfort her until the police and paramedics arrived.'.

After the crash, witnesses described Vice going up and down the bus's stairs 'asking passengers if they were OK', and escorted aerospace engineering student Mr Thompson down them.

Seven other passengers were injured on the X10 service on December 12 last year

Mr Thompson lost teeth in the crash, as well as severe wounds which required facial reconstructive surgery and dental treatment, but was said to now be 'coping generally well'.

Vice told police at the scene he had regularly driven under the bridge with single decker buses in the past, and that when he hit the steel part of it 'it was too late'.

Ian Ibrahim, defending, said Vice was a 'kind, considerate and compassionate gentlemen', and that his decision to take the detour was 'without doubt a catastrophic error of judgment.'

Judge Geraint Williams said Vice's detour 'would have gained but minutes' in time.

He said: 'That fatal error of yours resulted in the death of a promising young academic.

'Your delay in travelling through the city centre brought about an uncharacteristic but nonetheless significant impatience in you.

'The stark reality in this case is that your impatience that day robbed you of the care which ordinarily you applied to your professional driving.'

Vice, from Dunvant, Swansea, was sentenced to two years and six months in jail.

He was also disqualified from driving for five years and three months, and will not be able to drive unless an extended driving test is taken.     

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