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Wirral schoolgirl Jessica killed in M53 coach crash was wearing a seatbelt

3 weeks ago

Wirral schoolgirl Jessica killed in M53 coach crash was wearing a seatbelt
Jessica Baker (picture released by her family)

Jessica Baker, a 15-year-old student from Wirral, tragically lost her life in a school bus crash on the M53. 

Heading to West Kirby Grammar School, Jessica Baker was among the few wearing a seatbelt when the bus veered off the road on September 29 last year.

The inquest revealed that the driver, Stephen Shrimpton, suffered a heart attack, leading to the accident.

Jessica, dressed for PE in school that day, had boarded the bus from her home in Blacon, Chester. Her parents, Sean Baker and Sarah Merrington, attended the hour-long hearing at Gerard Majella Courthouse.

Coroner Andre Rebello highlighted that Jessica’s post-mortem showed bruising consistent with wearing a seatbelt, unlike many others on the bus.

Mr Rebello said: “It would be my ruling it is more likely than not that Jessica was wearing a seatbelt at the time of this collision.”

The coroner issued a prevention of future deaths report, stressing the need for better seatbelt use on school buses.

Stephen Shrimpton
Stephen Shrimpton

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 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.

Emergency services at the scene of a coach crash on the M53 motorway, between junction 5 at Ellesmere Port and junction 4 at Bebbington. The coach was carrying schoolchildren to Calday Grange Grammar School and West Kirby Grammar School for Girls. Picture date: Friday September 29, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLICE M53. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Mr Rebello said no inquest was held into Mr Shrimpton’s death as it was due to 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 the crash, four other children were taken to hospital, including a 14-year-old boy whose injuries are said to be “life-changing”, according to Merseyside Police.

Others were handled at an emergency training centre, with 13 treated for minor injuries before they were released.

Lawyers for the coach company, Carvers Coaches, and a child who was seriously injured in the collision attended the inquest, along with a lawyer representing the family of Jessica Baker.

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”.

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