Great Barr coach driver jailed over fatal M5 crash

A coach driver who caused a crash on a motorway that killed two people and injured dozens more has been jailed for six years.

Jasminder Singh Dhesi, from Great Barr, had been drinking high-strength lager hours before his unroadworthy coach broke down three times in foggy conditions on the M5, where it was eventually struck by a lorry travelling at 54mph.

Birmingham Crown Court heard the 50-year- old failed a breath test after the crash, which claimed the lives of coach passenger Liaquat Ali and the lorry driver William Mapstone. Dhesi was later below the drink-drive limit when a second sample was taken at a police station.

Mr Ali, from Smethwick, was pronounced dead at the scene, on the M5 between junction three for Halesowen and four for Lydiate Ash on March 24 last year, while Mr Mapstone, from Somerset, died in hospital. During yesterday’s hearing, it emerged Dhesi was fined for drink-driving 12 years ago after falling asleep and crashing a bus.

Passing sentence, Judge Michael Chambers QC expressed concern as to whether Dhesi, of Nether Hall Avenue, was remorseful for his actions.

He told the father-of-two, who pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, the fatal accident had been entirely avoidable

He said aggravating features were the degree of risk he created and that two people died.

The court heard 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 also imposed a four-year driving ban, told the coach driver: “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 onto 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.

Defence counsel Raglan Ashton said that Dhesi was a hard-working family man who was trying to drive to the nearby service station.