The parents of one of the victims of the M40 Hagley minibus disaster are calling for action, 30 years after the death of their daughter.
A teacher and 12 students died following the fatal collision on 18th November 1993 when the school minibus, driven by the teacher, was carrying the group of children back from a trip to the Royal Albert Hall in London.
It’s thought to have happened when the minibus ploughed into the back of a works vehicle on the M40 in Warwickshire. Only two children survived.
The victims were all pupils at Hagley Roman Catholic High School in Worcestershire.
Liz and Steve Fitzgerald lost their daughter Claire, who they say would have been “an amazing woman”.
“We miss her… all day, every day. All the time, really,” Liz said.
“I think that’s very fair,” Steve added.
Now, 30 years on, they’re campaigning for better safety checks surrounding the driving of school minibuses.
“We heard from an incredibly kind, gentle priest that unfortunately Claire was not one of those who had survived. We had the absolutely appalling challenge of leaving the hospital without her.
“Dawn was breaking and I just wanted to pull it down. Just pull the shutters down and stay dark.
“It was really awful, and we can remember it so clearly it’s unbelievable. It stays with you.”
At the moment, by law, at the majority of schools, any member of staff who has held a standard driving license for two years is allowed to drive a school minibus.
The NASUWT Teachers’ Union is supporting the call for all schools that use minibuses to be legally required to have an operators’ license.
Wayne Bates, from the union, says: “It would bring in restrictions around the length of time somebody could be driving for, and it would introduce far more stringent safety checks.”
The Department for Transport says that they provide guidance to schools and local authorities on driving school minibuses and continue to work with the sector on promoting road safety.
But 30 years after the crash that killed Claire and changed everything for her family, they say it’s time for the law to change too.
Liz and Steve now have grandchildren – who are coming up to the age where they’ll be attending school, and going on trips in minibuses just like Claire did.
ITV News Central asked the couple if this concerned them.
“Very much so,” Steve said. “That’s what’s driving what we’re doing at the moment, particularly.
“Claire was wanting to be a lawyer for disadvantaged children – it’s giving us a bit of a guiding light looking at what would have been her family in the future.”
Liz added: “Absolutely. They must not be allowed to be exposed to the same things that Claire was.
“That is just too much for most people to handle, really.”