Fatal Accident Inquiry into the death of Natasha Paton

A summary of the Determination issued by Sheriff Nikola Stewart is now available.

Natasha Jade Paton, aged 17, died in a road traffic accident at Castledyke Bridge, Wiston, A73 near Biggar on 31 March 2010, when the bus in which she was a passenger collided with the parapet of the bridge and came to rest in the Garf Water below. 

The bus was carrying 39 pupils from Lanark Grammar school on a school trip to Alton Towers in Staffordshire.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry has found that the accident which resulted in Natasha’s death was caused by the coach driver’s loss of control of the coach in circumstances which combined excessive speed and adverse weather conditions which had resulted in a slippery road surface.

It was found that Natasha drowned as a result of the road traffic accident.

The Sheriff identified the following reasonable precautions whereby her death may have been prevented:

  • Had the coach driver, Raymond Munro, travelled at a lower speed on the approach to and turn onto Castledyke Bridge and refrained from applying the brakes whilst negotiating that turn.
  • Had he refrained from attempting to negotiate the turn onto the bridge at a speed of 23 mph or more, adopted a slower speed, or brought the coach to a halt in preparation to crawling around the corner, the effects of any sudden loss of control could have been ameliorated or mitigated.
  •  Had Natasha and those passengers seated in proximity to her worn the seatbelts provided throughout the journey. 

No defects were subsequently noted in any of the tyres, nor were there any pre-collision defects that could have led to a loss of control of the vehicle or you increased the severity of the collision. It  was driven by Raymond Munro, then aged 60, a part-time driver with 40 years’ experience as a coach driver and was fitted with a tachograph.   He was the holder of a valid Full Category D (PCV) licence which entitled him to drive this coach. 

All 49 passenger seats of the coach were fitted with lap seat belts.  They were all in working condition. Prior to departure pupils were instructed by teacher Ross Allan to put on their seat belts and a check was carried out to ensure they were complying.  A further reminder and check was performed once the journey was underway. Despite these reasonable precautions not all passengers were wearing their seatbelts at the point of impact.  At least eight pupils in addition to Natasha Paton were not wearing a seat belt at the time of impact.  Four of them were sitting in the vicinity of Natasha.

It seems likely that Natasha was ejected from her seat and thrown out of the adjacent window as the bus fell sideways through the descent from the bridge.  The window glass had shattered due to the forces at work in the collision and fall, offering no resistance to her passage.  Had she been wearing a seatbelt she is likely to have been restrained within her seat.  No other injury sustained by her was life-threatening.

Whilst the poor and deteriorating weather conditions undoubtedly played a role in the accident and the difficulties associated with its immediate aftermath, no criticism was or should be levelled at any of those responsible for organising and supervising the trip that morning in respect of any failure to adequately prepare for or respond to weather conditions.  The wearing of a seatbelt by herself and by others seated near to her may have prevented Natasha’s death for the reasons set out in the Determination.  

“It is clear from the evidence that staff and pupils, and adult helpers all met the challenges which faced them that morning with admirable fortitude and clarity of purpose, helping others despite having themselves sustained often debilitating injuries.”

“Never far from the thoughts of those involved in the conduct of this Inquiry was the tragic death of Natasha.  In submissions, all representatives expressed their sincere condolences to the Paton Family, who showed such fortitude and dedication to her memory throughout this long and difficult process.  I take this opportunity to add mine.”

Sheriff Stewart

Read the full Determination