Tangled leads pose more questions than answers

A “DANGEROUS defect”, a “number six reason for failure” in the vehicle testers’ manual, a “very serious situation”, “the same as one brake not working at all — a very serious situation”.

Technicians and vehicle testing experts yesterday lined up to concur that the disablement of the anti-lock breaking system (ABS) on the bus which crashed with the loss of five young lives in Navan three years ago was no minor matter.

Little by little, the prosecution has been endeavouring to trace what had gone wrong in the run-up to that tragic accident, following up the tangled leads which are still in as much of a state of confusion as the mud-caked and broken cables of the ABS itself.

We heard Pat Bevington, the foreman of Keltank, the garage which serviced and maintained the bus, tell how he had never known the bus was fitted with ABS.

Its existence was “never mentioned” and they were never asked to repair it. In fact, the first he ever heard of it was when he read it in the newspapers following the accident.

Mr Bevington said Keltank did not have the diagnostic equipment to test ABS.

Then, we had the evidence of the Keltank mechanics — who one by one, candidly admitted that, yes, they had known the bus had ABS fitted but that they were never asked to repair it.

Aidan Callan, a mechanic and former employee who serviced the bus, said he knew it had ABS but it was not functioning on that bus or “any of them”.

A second mechanic, Adrian McManus, told the court how he had fitted a circuit panel to the bus. This was the panel in which the ABS warning light bulb had been removed.

But he was aghast when he was asked directly if he had been the one who had removed the bulb, exclaiming: “No!”

The panel had come from Bus Eireann in Broadstone — he had taken it out of a plastic bag and installed it — the condition it was in was the condition in had come from Bus Eireann.

The previous day, Keltank pleaded guilty to a new count, admitting it was aware the leads connecting the ABS were disconnected and had failed to ascertain whether there was a hazard in existence before returning the bus to its driver, John Hubble, and is therefore no longer on trial but awaiting sentencing.

In the meantime, the case against McArdles Test Centre continues, as do the efforts of the prosecution to find out how these crucial repairs to the ABS on the bus were overlooked — and by whom.

Most poignant of all yesterday was, perhaps, the observation by Rod McClelland, an independent technical consultant, that if the ABS had been functioning as designed the driver would have had the ability to maintain directional control of the vehicle and he’d have been able to steer it.

Its failure, on the other hand, meant the operation of the bus was significantly affected — the driver had no assistance in controlling the vehicle. It was the same as one brake not working at all, he said.

Tony Wynn, the most senior vehicle tester in the Department of Transport overseeing the NCT and tests for goods vehicles — who oversaw the setting up of vehicle testing, the appointing of test centres and drawing up of regulations — quoted from the testers’ manual’ citing that one of the “Reasons for Failure” was that if the brake anti-lock warning lamp did not operate correctly.

Article by independent.ie