A FORMER police officer who crashed and overturned a minibus taking autistic children home from a Gainsborough school was over the drink drive limit.
The children were left with terrible cuts and bruises and some have been psychologically scarred but driver David Snell, 55, of The Brambles, Middle Rasen walked free from Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 12th June with a £600 fine and 28-month driving ban.
Snell, who worked for Blanchards Taxis in Market Rasen, took special needs children from Louth and Market Rasen to and from Aegir Communinity School everyday.
He was heading home with seven pupils on 20th February when he lost control and ploughed his minibus into a field in Top Road, Osgodby.
The court heard how the children’s carer – who broke her collar bone in the crash – later told police Snell appeared to be having difficulty controlling the vehicle.
Adam Reed, 18, who has autism and epilepsy, was on the bus heading home to Donnington on Bain. His step-father Malcolm Bender said: “He telephoned us from the bus, hanging upside down. All I could hear was screaming and Adam saying ‘there’s been an accident’.”
“Adam was covered in bruises, right the way down his side and his stomach was red raw, like a bad burn, from where the seatbelt had been when he was hanging.”
He added: “It could have triggered a nasty attack and he would have been trapped on the bus.”
“As an ex-policeman David Snell should know better. I think he’s got off very lightly - we thought he would go to prison.”
Daniel Haynes, 12, who is autistic, has since been excluded from school due to behaviour problems following the crash.
Mum Natasha from, Asterby, said: “After the accident he was refusing to get into a taxi after school - going home after school brought it all back.
“Daniel’s behaviour has become worse and we’re putting it down to this.”
“He had a few cuts and bruises but the psychological effect has been worse.”
At first Natasha was not aware Snell had been drinking and even sent him a get-well card. “I wish I hadn’t bothered,” she said.
Snell – who worked as a police officer in Market Rasen about ten years ago - had to be cut from the bus and was airlifted to hospital with a serious back injury and cracked ribs.
When a blood sample was taken later that night Snell was about two times over the legal drink-drive limit.
Defending, Bill Miller said Snell had not drunk any alcohol on the day of the crash but had been drinking at the weekend.
Mr Miller said Snell – who previously had a clean driving licence - could not remember how the crash happened.
Blanchards Taxis owner Tony Blanchard said Snell had taken the children to school that morning as well.
He said: “You wouldn’t think you’d have to tell an ex-police officer not to drink and drive.
“Who’d have thought he’d have done something as stupid as this. He knows all about drink-driving. I was absolutely gob-smacked.”
“He’s our only driver in over 30 years to be caught for drink driving. It’s a nightmare - I’ve spent years building up a good reputation and it’s dashed in a minute. Business is slowing down and people are looking and asking questions.”
Snell, who has not been able to drive since injuring his right arm in the crash, admitted the drink-driving charge and offered an apology to his passengers.
Chairman of the bench Mrs Du’chesne said even though Snell had crashed a bus carrying ‘vulnerable’ passengers she was unable to give him a community punishment – he would not be able to do it due to injuries sustained in the crash.