No charges against Akaroa bus driver after tourist crash

The bus crashed down a hill near Akaroa, injuring more than 20 passengers.
GEORGE HEARD/STUFF

The bus crashed down a hill near Akaroa, injuring more than 20 passengers.

A tourist bus driver who crashed over a cliff on Banks Peninsula, injuring numerous passengers, will not be charged.

Raymond Arthur, aged in his 70s, was driving a bus load of tourists towards Akaroa in February.

The 32 passengers were returning to the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship, berthed in the harbour, after spending the day in Christchurch.

The bus was severely damaged.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF

The bus was severely damaged.

About 5pm, the bus veered into oncoming traffic, smashing into a car. It crashed over a bank and through dense bush, before becoming caught on a tree.

About 20 passengers were injured, six of whom were taken to hospital.

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Travlon Coachlines bus driver Raymond Arthur says his actions saved the lives of 32 people on the bus.
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Travlon Coachlines bus driver Raymond Arthur says his actions saved the lives of 32 people on the bus.

 

Arthur and the driver of the car were also hospitalised. The car's driver was seriously injured.

A witness at the scene said if the bus had not caught on the tree there would have been many fatalities.

Some passengers emerging from the bus told first responders Arthur appeared to have had a medical event prior to the crash, but he later denied that, saying there had been a mechanical failure.

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He told police in a statement the brakes had failed.

He said he was fit and his survival instincts saved the lives of passengers. He felt "bloody terrible" about the crash.

Police said on Friday that they had closed their investigation and would not press charges.

"After examining all the evidence available, police have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute any of the parties involved," Senior Constable Tim Johnson said.

Arthur declined to comment on Friday.

One passenger, American tourist David McCardel, described the horror of crashing down a cliff through bush.

"We went through the trees and the shrubs, just the violence of it, breaking all the windows," he said in March.

"I just thought maybe this is it – I can't believe this, it's almost like a dream; you're just getting bounced around like popcorn."

Arthur was driving the bus for Travlon Coachlines.

One of the company's buses was involved in a similar incident at Otira Gorge near Arthur's Pass in December 2015.

Thirteen people were seriously injured in that crash. One had to have his lower right leg amputated.

A mechanic contracted to the company, James Coakley, pleaded not guilty to charges related to the crash. A judge-alone trial will be held in the Christchurch District Court in November.

 - Stuff

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