Beds, Herts & Bucks

M1 triple fatal coach crash: Driver Alan Peters guilty

Alan Peters Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption Coach driver Alan Peters has been told to expect a prison sentence when he returns to court in December

A 78-year-old coach driver has been found guilty of killing three men and seriously injuring their friend after ploughing into their car on the M1.

Alan Peters, of Gravesend, Kent, crashed the coach into the Audi, which had its hazard lights flashing on the hard shoulder in Bedfordshire.

Audi driver Allan Evans, 59, Nathan Reeves, 23, and Tom Aldridge, 20, died.

At Luton Crown Court Peters was found guilty of causing three deaths and serious injury by dangerous driving.

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Peters, of Ambleside Valley Drive, had admitted the lesser charges of causing three deaths by careless driving, but denied causing the deaths by dangerous driving.

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Media captionThe coach hit a broken down Audi on the hard shoulder of the M1

He also denied causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Jake Dorling - a friend of Mr Reeves and Mr Aldridge, both from Newport Pagnell - suffered a fractured skull, fractured hips, four fractured ribs and a punctured lung in the crash in February 2015.

Judge Richard Foster said it was a "tragic case" and a custodial sentence was "certain".

Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption Jake Dorling (second left) suffered multiple injuries in the crash

He granted Peters bail ahead of sentencing in December. He is banned from driving.

Mr Dorling, 23, of Milton Keynes, told the jury Mr Evans, of Islington, London, agreed to drive them home for £60 after a night out at London club Egg and had stopped the car to top it up with oil.

"We were almost ready to set off," said Mr Dorling.

"I looked back and I don't really remember anything.

"My next memory was waking up in hospital."

Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption The victims' families attended the trial at Luton Crown Court

On Monday, Peters told the victims' families: "I deeply the regret the incident took place and I would do anything to rewrite history."

Prosecutor Peter Shaw earlier told the jury motorway signs indicated the hard shoulder should be used in emergencies only.

He said the coach hit the Audi at an estimated speed of 61mph (98km/h) and the coach driver had ample opportunity to abide by the signs saying the hard shoulder was for emergency use only.

Mr Evans had stopped the car on the M1 northbound between junctions 12 and 13 near Flitwick. The crash happened at about 06:40 GMT when it was still dark.

But in the witness box Peters had said: "My belief is that from junction 10 onwards the overhead gantry signs were displaying 'congestion - use hard shoulder' and 60mph signs. That is why I was on the hard shoulder."

Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption Three people inside the Audi died after the coach hit the car in February 2015

After the hearing PC Dave Clarke, who attended the crash scene, said it had been an "entirely avoidable incident".

Mr Dorling thanked police and other emergency services, adding: "I have been left to live with the consequences of the injuries that I received in the crash, but that's nothing compared to the devastation and loss that Tom, Nathan and Allan's families will have to cope with for the rest of their lives."

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