A MENTAL health patient died after stealing the ambulance he was being transported between hospitals in and crashing into a double decker bus, an inquest has heard.

Michael South, 40, had a long history of depression, and had previously tried to crash a car containing his wife and child the Bedale inquest was told.

Mr South had been admitted to hospital after stabbing himself in the chest on April 7, 2015, and was being transported from St James Hospital in Leeds to the mental health unit at Bootham Hospital in York on April 10, by a private ambulance contractor ERS.

The Northern Echo:

Wreckage from the crash scene

The Northern Echo:

Michael South

The two attendants in the ambulance left the vehicle after it was stopped on the A64, near Flaxton, leaving the keys in the ignition.

Mr South, from York, got into the drivers seat and drove the vehicle along the road before going into the opposite carriageway crashing into a Coastliner bus. Another vehicle was also then involved in the crash.

There were 16 people on the bus, the driver suffered serious leg injuries, and five passengers suffered minor injuries.

North Yorkshire Coroner Michael Oakley read a statement from Mr South’s widow Lucy who said her husband had been ill for many years with bouts of severe depression. In 1994 he was sent to prison for 18 months, and more recently run up extensive debts of £137,000 through online gambling and borrowed over £52,000.

Mrs South said in January 2015 their marriage had broken down after she had been in a car with Mr South taking him to hospital with their young son when he suddenly grabbed the steering wheel and pulled on the handbrake, forcing the car onto the pavement.

“I genuinely felt he was trying to kill us all,” she said.

Mrs South said doctors sectioned her husband but ten days later when they said he was suitable for leave she was too frightened to have him back home.

“I felt his being there would be dangerous. He was ill and had been for a long time, I had been left alone to cope with it, in the end I couldn’t handle it any longer. Michael needed professional help, the rational Michael would never have wanted to hurt anyone, he was a good, kind man, she added.

Nurse Director at St James Hospital, Leeds, Dawn Marshall told the inquest they used ERS ambulances for up to 1,500 patient movements a day. She said a major investigation had been launched by the York and Leeds Partnership NHS Trust. The inquest continues.