A driver who drove a double decker bus into a low level bridge, ripping off its roof, has been sacked.

Bus company Stagecoach North-East, yesterday confirmed it had dismissed the driver, who has not been named, after a disciplinary hearing last week. The man is appealing against the decision.

Eighteen people, who were heading for a Christmas shopping trip to the MetroCentre, Gateshead, were injured when the top of the bus was sliced off at Metal Bridge, between Spennymoor and Coxhoe, County Durham, on Monday, December 10.

Amazingly, no one was seriously hurt when the 13ft 6in vehicle was driven under the 12ft 9in bridge. Police said it travelled a further 40 yards after going under the bridge.

At the time, Stagecoach admitted the accident was human error. It said that the driver, who had 25 years' experience, usually took a single decker bus on that route. A double decker had been used to cope with the demand for Christmas shopping.

Yesterday a statement released by the company said that an internal investigation into the accident had been carried out.

A spokesperson said: "Following this, a disciplinary hearing was held on Thursday, December 14, resulting in the termination of employment of the driver involved in the incident.

"The driver has appealed against the decision to terminate his employment and a right of appeal hearing will be heard by a director of Stagecoach North East.''

After the accident, 11 of the 18 hurt were treated for minor injuries at the University Hospital, of Durham. The other seven refused hospital treatment.

Another bus was put on so that the rest of the passengers, who felt well enough, could continue their journey.

Miss Elizabeth Robinson, from Springfield, Darlington, was travelling on the top deck of the bus when the accident happened.

She said at the time: "Those who were hurt had superficial wounds. We were very lucky.''