AUDREY MASON has recalled the heartbreaking moment her father died as she sat at his hospital bedside holding his hand – and then pain of having to give the awful news to her mother who lay injured in a nearby ward.

Alerted to news of the Crawleyside Bank bus crash, Mrs Mason, 78, of Blackhall Colliery, described making her way to the Bishop Auckland Hospital in a “nightmarish fog” to be with her father William Nash Gee, 69 and her mother Elsie, 65.

She said: “When we got there my mum was in one ward with head injuries. Because she was in poor health at the time I was more concerned about her. So we went to see her first and then went to see my dad. He had head injuries and had a fracture in his neck. He was conscious but in a lot of pain.

“He kept asking me ‘will you hold my hand pet?’ I kept holding it. And that bothers me because he couldn’t feel it (because of his injuries). That still gets back to me now.

"I think 'why didn’t I just cuddle his head?'”

Mrs Mason and her brother sat with her father until he died at 6.45am the following morning.

She said: “We had to go and tell mum. It was terrible to have to tell her, because she seemed to think he would be alright.

“She told me that after the the crash when they were taken out and laid on the grass, he kept saying to her 'thank goodness we are alright. We are still alive'.”

She added: “I can remember my mum saying afterwards that, coming out of fog and down the bank, the driver not being able to brake. My dad was always calm, but when she looked at him she saw sheer fear in his face.

“When she knew he was frightened, she was frightened too. She recalled the driver trying to get into gear to slow it down. But it never worked and kept going until the bottom of the bank.”

Mrs Mason said her mother was not well enough to attend the funeral. “We brought my dad home the night before the funeral. We wanted him home.”

She recalls the nearby church bell tolling every day that week. She said: “It seemed to be every couple of hours, two or three times a day. And you knew that was someone else and you wondered ‘who is that getting to buried today’.”