Schoolgirl killed in bus crash was one of few onboard wearing seatbelt

A teenager who died when a school bus crashed on a motorway[1] was one of the few onboard wearing a seatbelt at the time, an inquest has heard. Jessica Baker, 15, was on her way to West Kirby Grammar School in Wirral, Merseyside, when the coach overturned[2] on the northbound M53 just after 8am on Sep 29 last year. An inquest at Gerard Majella Courthouse in Liverpool on Thursday heard that driver Stephen Shrimpton, 40, who also died, was suffering heart disease which caused him to collapse at the wheel[3] of the vehicle.

Jessica had been dressed for PE when she was dropped at the bus stop near her home in Blacon, Chester, that morning, the court heard. Andre Rebello, senior coroner for Liverpool and Wirral, said CCTV showed many on the bus were "unrestrained" but Jessica appeared to be sitting in place "not moving in the same way everyone else is moving". Her post-mortem examination showed bruising consistent with wearing a seatbelt.

Coroner issued report

Mr Rebello said: "It is more likely than not that Jessica was wearing a seatbelt at the time of this collision."

After the inquest was opened in October, he issued a prevention of future deaths report which raised concerns about the use of seatbelts[4] as CCTV did not show they were being used. In the report, which was sent to the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Education, Mr Rebello said: "A distinction should be drawn between school buses in built-up areas and school commuter coaches travelling a distance using A roads and the motorway network - with regard to the availability and use of seatbelts." About 50 students, travelling to West Kirby and Calday Grange grammar schools, were on the coach at the time of the crash.

The crash happened on the northbound M53The crash happened on the northbound M53Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

The inquest heard that CCTV showed Mr Shrimpton, who was not wearing a seatbelt, slump to his left-hand side before the vehicle left the motorway, going up an embankment, hitting a tree and rolling back on to the hard shoulder.

Mr Rebello said a post-mortem examination showed the driver had extensive ischemic heart disease which could have caused an abrupt collapse and sudden death. The court heard the test results could explain symptoms of chest and arm pain which he had described the evening before the collision, but it was not clear whether he had symptoms that morning. Mr Rebello said no inquest was held into Mr Shrimpton's death as it was because of natural causes.

He added that Jessica's cause of death was a head injury and recorded a conclusion of road traffic collision.

He told the family: "I know she was very much loved."

After her death, her family paid tribute to the talented climber, who they described as a "warm-hearted, wonderful daughter, granddaughter and niece, devoted sister and loyal friend".


  1. ^ school bus crashed on a motorway (
  2. ^ when the coach overturned (
  3. ^ caused him to collapse at the wheel (
  4. ^ concerns about the use of seatbelts (