Newly-qualified bus driver caused pensioner’s death in ‘tragic’ collision
A NEWLY-QUALIFIED bus driver caused the death of a pensioner in a “tragic” collision on his first day at work.
Jay Stolzenberg pleaded guilty to causing the death of 76-year-old grandmother of three Glenys Thomas by driving carelessly near a supermarket at a busy retail centre in Bridgend.
Sentencing at Newport Crown Court, Judge Philip Harris-Jenkins said: “This is undoubtedly a tragic case.”
The court heard the incident occurred at about 3pm on May 16 last year on the Sainsbury’s access road at McArthur Glen in Bridgend.
James Wilson, prosecuting, said Mrs Thomas was being picked up from a coach trip when the bus driven by the defendant struck her friend’s blue Renault.
The victim had just put her walking stick inside and had one foot in the car when the bus knocked the vehicle, which had pulled up in a bus stop.
Prosecutors said the car “jolted” forward, knocking Mrs Thomas to the floor and trapping her legs underneath the rear wheel.
An eyewitness said it looked like the driver, who worked for First Bus, had misjudged the gap when he tried to pass the car.
The court heard he had a “buddy” supervising him, who advised him to pass the car if there was enough space.
Mr Wilson said: “[Mrs Thomas] fell and banged her head on the pavement. Her legs became trapped under the car.”
The incident was caught on CCTV installed in the bus, which was travelling at 5mph.
A witness said the driver looked “shocked and distraught” and another heard him say: “I thought I checked my mirrors.”
Paramedics confirmed the casualty was conscious, complaining of pain in her legs and shoulder.
An air ambulance was called and she was rushed to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend. Mrs Thomas suffered crush injuries to her legs and a fractured shoulder.
The court heard she suffered “significant” compli- cations, including pneumonia and kidney failure, and died three months later on August 14.
A pathologist concluded her death was caused by complications of blunt trauma and hospitalisation.
Police noted the weather was fine on the day of the collision and the road surface was dry. An investigator concluded the defendant misjudged the space needed to pass the car. He said Stolzenberg should have waited for the car to move off, or for a gap in the oncoming traffic.
In his first police interview, the defendant told officers he had only just passed his public service vehicle test and it was his first day driving a bus on a proper route.
He stated he saw the parked car and initially decided to stop, but was advised to “go round” and did not leave enough space.
In his second interview, he accepted he should have stopped and that his driving fell below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver.
Prosecutors said Mrs Thomas left behind a son, daughter, three grandchildren, sister, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews.
In a victim personal statement read out in court, daughter Janet Cadogan described her mother as “a considerate person”.
She said: “It was hard to see her go from being a very active person to the steady deterioration.”
Prosecutors argued the defendant drove carelessly by misjudging the amount of space needed to manoeuvre safely. Mr Wilson described it as a “momentary misjudgment”.
Stolzenberg, 25, from Hartshorn Terrace in Caerau, Maesteg, initially denied causing death by careless driving, but changed his plea earlier this month. Richard Ace, defending, stressed his client had no previous convictions and had held an “unblemished” driving record.
He said: “Circumstances conspired against him. This was, in my submission, a series of unfortunate events.”
The defence barrister emphasised the back of the car was sticking out into the carriageway. He said his client had hesitated and was advised by his colleague to pass the car.
Mr Ace argued: “They were relatively minor injuries in someone who was quite frail.”
He told the court Stolzenberg had shown genuine remorse.
Judge Harris-Jenkins said: “My condolences are with Mrs Thomas’ family. No sentence I could pass could compensate for the loss of such a valued family member. The personal statement shows how her loss has been felt within the family and your pain has been heard by the defendant – doubtless it is something he will not forget as long as he lives.”
He noted the defendant had only held a standard driving licence for nine months before the incident.
The judge told him: “You wholly misread the situation and undertook a manoeuvre when it was clearly unsafe to do so.”
He said the defendant should have taken more care at a bus stop.
But he added: “Your lack of experience, doubtless, has much to do with that misjudgment.”
Judge Harris-Jenkins told the defendant: “This is one of those terrible cases where the collision which led to the untimely death of Mrs Thomas could have been avoided. Unfortunately a death has been caused and you must pay the price for your actions which led to that sad death.”
Stolzenberg was given a 27-week jail term, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work. He was disqualified from driving for two years and will have to pass an extended re-test before getting behind the wheel again.
Jay Stolzenberg was given a suspended sentence for causing death by driving carelessly
CCTV shows Glenys Thomas getting into a friend’s car when bus driver Jay Stolzenberg hit the vehicle while trying to pass it