December 17, 2018 13:16:28
A Ballarat bus driver who injured six people when he crashed his coach into the notorious Montague Street bridge in South Melbourne has been jailed for five years and three months.
- The judge said it was astonishing Aston did not see the bridge
- He said the driver, not his employer, was ultimately responsible for the crash which injured six
- The driver will serve a minimum of two-and-a-half years in prison
Jack Aston, 55, was driving for Gold Bus Ballarat on February 22, 2016, when the front of the bus struck the base of the bridge, which had a three-metre clearance.
His vehicle was 3.8 metres high.
In October, a jury found Aston guilty of six charges of negligently causing serious injury.
The court heard there was a sticker on the driver’s instrument panel indicating the height of the bus.
“Three of your passengers saw the bridge. How it is that you did not, is astonishing,” Judge Bill Stuart told Aston during sentencing.
“Why you were so grossly inattentive is unknown to me.
“Driving an 11-tonne bus with 14 passengers and failing to observe any of the warnings … is itself in my view a serious example of this offending.”
Judge Stuart noted that Gold Bus founder Donald McKenzie had taken responsibility for not warning Aston of driving conditions in that area.
But he said Aston was ultimately responsible.
“Employers cannot be blamed for [the] obvious failings of employees.”
He also rejected assertions by the defence team that Aston was confused.
“I don’t know how you could possibly have been confused,” Judge Stuart said.
The judge pointed out that one of the warning signs along the route was a height sensor which triggered red flashing warning lights.
Judge Stuart ruled Aston would serve a non-parole period of two-and-a-half years.
Bus missed warning signs
During a plea hearing last week the County Court heard Aston, an experienced driver, was “confused” and had failed to see numerous warning signs over a 300 metre stretch of road.
He had dropped off guests at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and was taking other guests to a hotel on St Kilda Road when the crash occurred.
The court heard it took 48 seconds for Aston to drive less than 300 metres from a traffic intersection on Munro St to the bridge.
The bus was travelling at 56 kilometres per hour at the time of impact.
December 17, 2018 12:33:56