A BUS driver who tore the roof off his vehicle after he crashed into a low bridge while carrying dozens of students has been given a suspended jail sentence.

Driver Trevor Wilson ignored panicked shouts from students and missed four warning signs before the doubledecker Compass Royston bus ploughed into the bridge in Neasham Road, Darlington, on September 22, last year.

Twelve students were hospitalised after the incident, including one who suffered a broken collar bone.

Wilson, 51, of Wellington Walk, Stockton, appeared before Darlington Magistrates’ Court, yesterday, for sentencing after pleading guilty to dangerous driving earlier this month.

Magistrates sentenced him to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered him to complete 100 hours of work in the community.

He was also disqualified from driving for 18 months.

The court heard that Wilson, who had been driving buses for more than 30 years, did not know the route to Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, in Darlington, and was relying on a 17-year-old girl to give him directions.

He had been driving singledecker buses for more than a decade, but was asked to drive a double-decker bus at the last minute because of passenger numbers.

Simon Walker, mitigating, said Wilson’s life had been devastated by the incident, which had left him suffering flashbacks.

Mr Walker said: “It is not an overstatement to say the events have changed this man’s life forever.

“This has had a devastating effect on him on a number of levels. He has sought help from his GP. This was a one-off error, his first in 30 years. He has indicated that he will never drive a bus again.

“He has lost his good name, his job and, at least temporarily, his health.”

Mr Walker referred to concerns raised by a relative of one of the students involved, who said a single-decker bus had had a narrow escape at the same bridge the day before the collision.

He said: “The woman seemed surprised that Compass Royston had not been blamed for this incident.

There had been alarm the previous day when the bus went under the bridge. That incident was not brought to Mr Wilson’s notice.”

Magistrates said Wilson’s remorse and the fact that Compass Royston changed the vehicle were mitigating factors that meant his sentence could be suspended.

The managing director of Compass Royston, Gary Walton, could not be reached for comment.