'˜Heroic' teacher drove coach full of students to safety after driver fell ill at the wheel

A teacher who steered a coach full of students to safety when the driver became ill at the wheel has been hailed a hero.

Friday, 15th July 2016, 11:18 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:37 pm
Axholme Academy headteacher Joe Sellars. Picture: Liz Mockler E1551LM

Carl Thompson, English teacher at Axholme Academy, took the wheel of the coach, which was carrying 45 year 7 and 8 pupils, when the driver become unconscious.

The group were travelling in one of three coaches which were on the way to Alton Towers amusement park yesterday, as an end-of-year reward for the pupils. They were about an hour in to their journey and travelling on the M1 when the incident happened at around 8.30pm.

The coach crashed in to the central reservation, but Mr Thompson was able to drive the coach off the motorway and bring it to a stop on a dual carriageway. Nobody was harmed during the incident and no other vehicles were involved.

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Mr Joe Sellars, principal at the academy, who was not travelling on the coach but has since spoken to the staff involved, said: “The two teaching assistants who were on board, Diane Nunns and Stephanie Parkinson, said they first noticed that the driver appeared to be losing consciousness.

“Mr Thompson tried to support the driver and asked him to break, but it was clear he had lost control. At this time, the coach drifted across three lanes and hit the central reservation.

“Luckily, they were very close to junction 30, so they managed to undo the drivers seat belt and pull him out of the way, then Mr Thompson was able to steer the coach. He drove up the slip road and off the motorway, round a roundabout and then on to a dual carriageway, where he brought the coach to stop.

“It’s a miracle that there were no other vehicles involved, given what happened and that it was 8.30 in the morning on the M1. We are so relieved that everyone is okay, I dread to think what could have happened.

He said that Mr Thompson was a hero and praised all the staff for their quick thinking and brave actions.

“It’s an amazing story, Mr Thompson’s actions have prevented what could have been a very, very serious accident.

“He would not describe himself as a hero because he is very unassuming man, but his actions were heroic. What all the staff did is incredible, it was a real team effort to make sure everybody was safe.”

Paramedics arrived on the scene to tend to the driver and check students for minor injuries shortly after the incident.

The school kept parents informed of what was happening by posting updates on their website. Parents of children on the coach were also contacted individually.

At 10.10am, a replacement coach was sent from Scunthorpe to collect everyone on the coach and take them back to the school, on Wharf Road, Crowle. They arrived back safely at 12.45pm.

Mr Sellars added: “Once Mr Thompson had stopped the coach and the emergency services had been called, staff phoned the school to let us know what had happened and we made the decision to bring the children back to the school so they could go home, rather than send another coach to allow them to continue to Alton Towers, because we knew parents would be concerned and the children would be upset.

“Pupils had also been texting their parents so we were getting phone calls from them.

“The children were shaken after what happened, but they were all checked over at the scene by the paramedics and were okay. I understand that the children realised that something untoward was happening quite quickly and were obviously quite distressed, but Mrs Nunns went to reassure them all.

“The children behaved amazingly afterwards, when the police and paramedics arrived and while they were waiting for the replacement coach. They were a credit to the school.

“The staff were shaken up too by what happened, and quite emotional when they got back to school, but just relieved everyone was okay. I’ve seen the them this morning and they seem much better, they still can’t believe what happened.

“I would also like to say thank you to all the staff back at the school who worked hard to inform individual parents and keep our website updated.”

He added that he does not know exactly what caused the driver to become ill, but he believes he is recovering in hospital this morning.