Bus driver haunted by Matthew

PUBLISHED: 17:02 15 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:47 03 July 2010

HAUNTED: Former bus driver Dennis Kuhn

HAUNTED: Former bus driver Dennis Kuhn

A FORMER bus driver has spoken of the “living hell” he has endured since he was behind the wheel of a First Eastern Counties bus involved in an accident which killed a Caister teenager.

Matthew Eckett, 17

A FORMER bus driver has spoken of the “living hell” he has endured since he was behind the wheel of a First Eastern Counties bus involved in an accident which killed a Caister teenager.

Dennis Kuhn, 48, said he had to take sleeping tablets for four months following the July crash in which Matthew Eckett, 17, died.

Mr Kuhn said he was haunted by visions of the youngster trapped under his bus.

He added the accident in Prince of Wales Road, Caister, had left him unable to travel on the triaxle buses which stop near his home in Beach Road, Scratby, as he was driving the same model at the time of the crash.

The former lorry driver pleaded guilty to a charge of driving without due care and attention and received an 18-month driving ban and £400 fine at Yarmouth Magistrates' Court on January 5.

Kuhn, who has been sacked by First, said he had been unable to find work as a bus driver and could not claim benefits because he was deemed to be responsible for his unemployment.

But the Hertfordshire man, who moved to Scratby from Hoddesdon two years ago, apologised to the teenager's family and said he realised his suffering was nothing compared to their grief.

On the morning of the crash, he had driven the bus to Lowestoft before travelling back up through Great Yarmouth and the surrounding villages picking up pupils going to Flegg High School.

He said: “I went to pieces at the scene of the accident and I could not get out of the cab for half an hour. The emergency services tried to get me out, but I would not let go of the brake.

“Leading up to the accident, I remember looking out of the window and seeing his eyes and then seeing him lying underneath the bus in the aftermath of the crash. I took sleeping tablets for about four months because it still haunted me, but eventually I had to wean myself off them because they were doing me no good.

“I just froze. I could not come to terms with it, a young lad like that.”

The court also heard unmarried Kuhn, who lives with his father Ray, 81, had been banned from driving between April and October 2006, prior to being employed by First, after totting up 12 points on his licence for speeding offences while a truck driver in Hertfordshire.

Popular Matthew, who attended Caister High, lived with his mother Hilary Caile, stepfather Chris McConville, brother Gary Eckett, 15, and stepbrother Lewis McConville, 15, in Prince of Wales Road.

He had gained NVQ and City and Guilds qualifications in engineering and welding at Great Yarmouth College.

Ms Caile said she was angry Kuhn had not apologised in court when he had the chance to speak to the teenager's family directly, and spoke of her concern that First had employed someone who had had a driving ban.

She said: “He put his head down, shook his head and walked right past us when they read out the sentence. He should have had the guts to face the family and said sorry there and then.”

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