QUICK-thinking schoolboys saved the lives of their pals by shouting “duck” - as the roof of their bus was sliced off by a railway bridge.
Mitchum Bates, aged 12, and James Coakley, 11, were sitting upstairs on the front seats of a double-decker when they realised with horror their bus was going to hit the bridge.
They screamed “duck” - giving fellow school pupils vital seconds to dive for cover, shielding their heads with their hands.
Today, reliving his ordeal, Mitchum told The Star: “Me and James shouted ‘duck’ just before we hit the bridge and the roof came off.
“Afterwards there were people screaming and shouting, and lots of people covered in blood.”
The schoolboy, from Mosborough, Sheffield, said: “I was bleeding and I had glass in my shoes and pockets. I saw one unconscious pupil being dragged off the bus.
“There was debris everywhere which we had to climb over to get off. One boy was actually standing up when we could see we were going to hit the bridge.”
Mitchum, and James, from Bolsover, were among pupils travelling to St Mary’s Roman Catholic High School in Upper Newbold. The crash happened on Whittington Road, New Whittington, Chesterfield.
Parents said bus operator TM Travel, based at Halfway in Sheffield, usually sends a single-decker for the school run, but if a double-decker is used drivers take an alternative route to avoid the low bridge.
They said it was a miracle nobody was seriously hurt or killed.
Mitchum’s mum Caroline Bates said: “I went to the scene as soon as I heard about the crash and it was horrendous - how on earth nobody was killed amazes me.
“The top deck of the bus was severed - the roof had totally gone.
“My son and his friends will never be as lucky again. I have never seen anything like it, the bus had been torn apart. The children could have had their heads ripped off.”
One child lost teeth and others were cut and wounded. In total, 18 pupils went to hospital for further treatment and check-ups.
Vin Malone, of Gleadless, Sheffield, had two grandchildren - Joe, 11, and Phoebe, 13 - on the bus.
He said: “My grandson was treated by paramedics and left with a bandage on his head after having stitches, and my granddaughter was treated for shock.
“It seems the bus went the wrong way - the children were all very lucky to survive.”
Headteacher Sean McClafferty went to the crash scene, and then travelled to hospital to check on his pupils and speak to worried parents.
He said: “We are very fortunate no pupils were more seriously injured. We are working with the children and families to support them after this shock and to help those who received injuries.”
Police sealed off the crash scene while paramedics and firefighters helped treat injured pupils before they were taken to hospital by ambulance.
Operational support manager Craig Whyles, of East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “On arrival we assessed the children. As expected, they were very distressed and several sustained minor facial injuries.
“One child was transported to hospital with serious injuries but they were not thought to be life threatening.
“While treating the patients our crews did what they could to calm the children and offer some reassurance to the parents who had arrived on scene.”
A police probe into the circumstances surrounding the incident yesterday morning was underway today.
TM Travel would not comment when contacted by The Star.