Lorry driver avoids jail

A GERMAN lorry driver who caused a crash which left three people dead, including a Suffolk schoolboy, has walked free from court - saying he would “give his life” to undo the tragedy.

A GERMAN lorry driver who caused a crash which left three people dead, including a Suffolk schoolboy, has walked free from court - saying he would “give his life” to undo the tragedy.

Frank Schade, 33, was convicted of causing death through negligence and given a two-year suspended prison sentence at a court in Kerpen, near Cologne.

It followed an horrific pile-up involving his vehicle and two coaches carrying East Anglian schoolchildren, which claimed the life of 14-year-old Stuart Dines, from Woodbridge.

Schade told the court yesterday: “I think about it (the accident) anew every day and would give my life if I could undo it all.”

The court yesterday found that he was driving his truck despite being exhausted when the accident happened in the early hours of February 11 on the A4 highway, near Cologne.

Stuart was travelling with fellow pupils and staff from Thomas Mills High School, Framlingham, in a double-decker coach heading for a half-term skiing trip in the Austrian resort of Fugen.

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The coach suffered a puncture and pulled over onto the hard shoulder, with its emergency lights flashing.

Shortly afterwards, Schade's truck - which was laden with iron rods - crashed into the stationary bus and spun across the road, blocking traffic.

A second coach carrying 36 pupils and staff from the private Norwich School, which was travelling independently to a ski resort in the Alps, then collided with the wreckage of the first crash, the court heard.

Stuart was killed when a piece of metal from the lorry smashed through one of the coach windows.

The 69-year-old assistant driver of the Norwich School coach, Ron Lees, from Gorleston, who was off-duty at the time of the accident, also died.

Jane Irving, 53, a staff secretary at the school, lost her fight for life in hospital two days later.

Another 29 people were injured.

Yesterday's court case followed an investigation by the German authorities.

Presiding judge Peter Koenigsfeld told the court that the first coach “was parked in accordance with regulations on the hard shoulder and, because of the flashing warning lights and its internal lighting, was easily visible to anyone”.

Prosecutors had sought a prison sentence of two years and two months. The judge made clear that Schade's sentence was suspended because he had four children to care for.

“If it were not for your wife and children, you would certainly have got a prison sentence,” Mr Koenigsfeld told the defendant.

Stuart's death left students and staff at Thomas Mills devastated. He was described as a happy and popular teenager who threw himself into school life

As well as studying hard for his GCSEs, the year 10 pupil was involved in a number of extra-curricular activities, including trampolining and rugby. He was also a talented swimmer who used to be a member of Deben Swimming Club, where his mother used to teach.

His parents, Robert and Jackie, who also have a daughter, Rachel, and a son, Ian, paid an emotional tribute to the teenager after his death.

They said at the time: “Stuart would always make you laugh, whatever the situation. He was a very loyal son and brother, who was extremely caring and could never be replaced.

“He will never be forgotten by anyone who knew him and will remain with us forever.”

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