TWENTY-THREE children had to be rescued after their school bus driver went through two road closed signs and one stretch of floodwater before getting his vehicle stuck in a river that had burst its banks, a court heard.

Graham Stanley Jones, 43, was taking 23 children to Easingwold secondary school early on January 5, 2016, during the aftermath of the Christmas floods, York Crown Court was told on December 8, 2016.

The prosecution claimed the second stretch of floodwater on Tollerton Lane north of York was between knee and waist high and that because of the road layout an approaching driver could not tell how deep it was or how far it extended.

The jury heard that when Mr Jones drove into it at about 8.15am, the water pushed the bus into a ditch and everyone on board had to be rescued.

“Someone who drives in that way, risking the safety of their passengers and themselves is driving dangerously,” said Graham O’Sullivan, prosecuting.

Earlier in the witness box, Jones claimed: “It wasn’t dangerous, I didn’t intend, I didn’t put the children’s lives in danger, so I didn’t classify it as dangerous.”

He also claimed: “It was a genuine mistake.”

He claimed the water was only “kneecap” deep and had appeared to be the same as the earlier floodwater he had driven through.

He also denied that he had seen the first sign warning that the road was closed because it had been lying on the ground – and claimed he thought the second sign referred to Ella Bridge being closed, which was off his intended route.

A new era of manufacturing officially began in the North-East on December 10, 2016, after the unveiling of a train builder’s maiden creation.

A year on from the opening of its £82m plant in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, Hitachi launched the first of its Intercity Express trains. 190 years on from when Robert Stephenson assembled the world’s first passenger steam engine in the region, Hitachi is making 122 trains for the Great Western and East Coast Main Line routes, with a total of 281 Aycliffe-built trains expected to be in operation by 2020.

Bosses at the train builder said the birthplace of the railways had now become the “centrepiece”.

To add to an already incredible day for manufacturing in the North-East, the Japanese ambassador to the UK called for the Newton Aycliffe plant to be expanded so it can deal with “decades” of future orders.

Finally, a determined musician with a debilitating lung disease hoped to fulfil his final ambition in life by making it big with the release of his Christmas single.

Ron White, 66, of Tow Law, County Durham, had one last item on his bucket list and in December 2016 was dreaming of a number one with Give Us a Hug For Christmas – penned to spread festive cheer and raise money for a good cause.

The father-of-one, who used an oxygen tank to help him breathe, planned to give all proceeds to mental health charity Mind.


The singer and guitarist has been making music since he was a teenager and during his life has written around 1,200 songs, of which he has professionally demoed 100.

He chose to donate any money made from sales of the song to Mind.

“I think Mind is underfunded. You read about young people committing suicide and it’s tragic.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054