The parents of a boy who was horrifically injured when he fell from a moving coach are calling on people to sign their petition for improved safety measures.
It is more than two years since Seb Goold, now 11, fell from the coach on the way back from a rugby tournament but it is only now his parents Nick and Tracey, of Wansford, have felt able to speak about the accident which changed their little boy’s life forever.
Seb lost his right leg above the knee and suffered a severe brain injury after falling from the 20-year-old coach when a side exit door swung open.
Norfolk Police, which investigated the incident found eight faults with the coach - including problems with the door in which Seb fell and that the warning light alerting the driver the door was open was inoperable.
But Nick, 49, and Tracey, 50, were astonished when police told them there would be no prosecution.
After finding out the driver and the owner of Hamiltons coaches had not even been interviewed, the couple complained to the force’s Professional Standards Department which has since apologised to the family after finding “aspects” of the investigation fell below standard.
The couple have now launched an e-petition to get safety regulations debated in Parliament – and to see the end of personal licence plates which can disguise the age of vehicles.
Nick said: “We were very angry with the outcome and we feel let down by Norfolk Constabulary. That coach just shouldn’t have been on the road.”
Tracey added: “It is only now that we have this outcome that we feel able to talk about what happened that day.”
Nick, a finance director at Compare the Market, was travelling in the coach, as was Seb’s twin brother Ben. They had enjoyed a fantastic weekend at the rugby tournament in Holt, Norfolk, with the Stamford Rugby Club Under 9s team, and were on their way home.
Seb was waiting to use the toilet when the door flew open. He was sucked out backwards and went under the back wheel, crushing his right leg and puncturing an artery.
Nick said: “People were screaming someone’s fallen out and one of the parents sitting near the toilet said ‘I think it’s one of yours, I think it’s Seb. The coach eventually stopped and it was just blind panic trying to find him on the road.”
By the time Nick reached him, nurse Claire O’Mara and surgeon Alistair Best, whose son had been in the same rugby tournament, had stopped to help.
Later Claire told the astonished Goolds that when she stopped, Seb, who was nine at the time, was trying to stand despite his badly damaged leg and told her: “I didn’t want to get run over. I think I’ve hurt my leg”.
Nick said at the roadside his son was calm but asked his Daddy if he would die.
Nick added: “It was horrific, it was every parent’s worst nightmare.”
Tracey, a lecturer with the Open University Business School, had been following the coach in a car with two other mothers and one got a call to say there had been an accident and asked them to redivert to the hospital. Tracey saw the ambulance carrying her precious son but she had no idea of the extent of his injuries or what had happened until she arrived.
Seb was rushed to The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, where doctors told the Goolds they couldn’t save Seb’s leg. He was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, suffering a cardiac arrest en-route, and had his leg amputated the same evening. He suffered a second cardiac arrest and spent three weeks in a coma.
When he woke up, Seb could barely see, talk or lift his head, and had problems moving his limbs. He had to relearn how to do everything and although he has come a long way since, he is still having daily therapy and physiotherapy.
But the couple are convinced the outcome could have been a lot different had it not been for the quick actions of the nurse and surgeon at the scene and the hospital staff.
Nick said: “He was fortunate and we know that. The emergency services of the NHS and the care we have had over the last two years has been absolutely outstanding, second to none.”
Despite his injuries, Seb has remained positive and is looking to the future. Previously having wanted to be a footballer, he has now turned his ambitions to becoming a blade runner and will be starting at Stamford School in September with brother Ben. This weekend the duo are at a cricket camp in Ketton and despite his injuries, Seb has remained interested in sports, even learning to ski on one leg.
In the wake of the accident, the couple said the support from the community in Stamford and the surrounding area has been “overwhelming” and they are so grateful.
As their son recovered, the couple’s focus turned to the safety of the coach he had fallen from. They are angry that bus operators are not required to bring old coaches - the ones more likely to be used by schools and sports groups - up to the safety standards required by new coaches, with Nick calling it a “dangerous double standard”. They said that since the accident they’ve found out that one in five coaches on the road are not up to modern-day standards.
Nick said: “We have launched a campaign to try to get the legislation changed and as a first step we are trying to get this matter debated in Parliament. To do this we need to get 100,000 people to sign the e-petition.”
The couple are specifically asking for the following:
l If safety legislation is passed this should apply to all coaches, not just ones manufactured from that date and all coaches should be brought up to standard or decommissioned.
l Operators should not be able to hide the age of their coaches behind private plates
l When booking a coach there should be absolute transparency over the age of the coach, the level of safety equipment it has (or a system of safety rating) and the licence safety/compliance history of the operator.
Tracey said: “It’s the seriousness of this accident that makes it so fundamentally important. We would hate for another family to go through what we have but the fact is this was an accident that was waiting to happen and we are just lucky our son is alive.”
A spokesman for Norfolk Police said: “It is acknowledged the investigation fell below the expected standards and following a thorough review, a number of recommendations have been implemented.”
Insurers for Kettering firm Hamiltons Coaches have settled a civil liability claim with the Goolds. Owner of Hamiltons Coaches Mr Uka said: “I’m naturally distressed by the injuries suffered by Seb. The matter is in the hands of solicitors and I’m taking legal advice.”
n Sign the petition at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/163522/sponsors/gU4ivSdKbceHIRzAi1u.