Six years in jail for M5 death crash coach driver
A coach driver who caused the deaths of one of his passengers and a lorry driver while over the drink-drive limit has been jailed for six years.
Jasminder Singh Dhesi had been drinking high-strength lager hours before his unroadworthy coach broke down three times on a fog-bound motorway, where it was eventually struck by a heavy goods vehicle.
Birmingham Crown Court heard that Dhesi, 50, failed a roadside breath test after the crash, which claimed the lives of coach passenger Liaquat Ali and haulier William Mapstone.
Mr Mapstone, from Wells, in Somerset, died in hospital after the collision on the M5 near Birmingham on March 24 last year, while Mr Ali, from Smethwick, West Midlands, was pronounced dead at the scene.
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During yesterday’s sentencing hearing, it emerged that Dhesi was fined for drink-driving 12 years ago after falling asleep and crashing a bus into another vehicle. Passing sentence, Judge Michael Chambers QC expressed concern as to whether Dhesi, of Nether Hall Avenue, Great Barr, West Midlands, was remorseful for his actions.
Judge Chambers told the father-of-two, who pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, that the fatal accident near Frankley Services on the southbound M5 had been entirely foreseeable and avoidable
The judge told Dhesi: “Travelling on the motorway as you did clearly caused a substantial risk to other road users and also the passengers on your bus.”
The court heard that Dhesi, who was driving a party of more than 30 fruit-packers from Birmingham to Evesham, was initially found to have 46 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, above the legal limit of 35 micrograms.
But a test carried out at a police station two hours after the crash gave a reading just below the legal limit and Dhesi was not charged with drink-driving.
The judge, who imposed a four-year driving ban, told the coach driver: “In my judgment it can be safely inferred that two hours previously it would have been over the legal limit for driving. At the root of the present case is a serious loss of judgment – alcohol impairs judgment.”
Prosecutor Neil Bannister told the court the single-decker coach had twice pulled over on to the hard shoulder of the M5 due to a fuel supply problem. Despite travelling for less than a mile after joining the M5 near Halesowen, the 19-year-old coach broke down for a third time near a footbridge on a stretch of carriageway with no hard shoulder at 6.07am
Several vehicles, including a crane and another lorry, were forced to take avoiding action before Mr Mapstone’s lorry struck, travelling at 54mph, struck the stranded coach at 6.17am.
Dozens of workers travelling on the coach were injured, including a 29-year-old man who remains in hospital with severe neurological injuries.
Defence counsel Raglan Ashton submitted that Dhesi was a hard-working family man who was attempting to drive his vehicle to the nearby service station.
Relatives of Mr Mapstone, 65, and Mr Ali, a married father-of-three, attended court to see Dhesi jailed.
Speaking to the media outside the court, Mr Mapstone’s son-in-law, Kai Markall, read a statement on behalf of the family: “The family would like to express their thanks to all of the emergency services and those that were involved on the day of this tragedy, who all worked tirelessly to minimise everyone’s loss.
“Special thanks go to the family liaison officers who have helped provide the answers to all the painful questions we all wish to know when going through this unimaginable pain. The pain felt by the Mapstone family can never be measured in the sentence passed today.”