A bus driver has been jailed after a crash which ripped the roof of the vehicle, leaving schoolchildren in hospital.

Martin Robert Walker, 36, of Burke Drive, Southampton was today sentenced to three years in prison for causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Winchester Crown Court heard how on September 10 last year, Walker was driving a double decker bus on Wellhouse Lane, Winchester, when it was in collision with the railway bridge.

As a result of the collision, forty-one students aged between 10 and 15-years-old sustained minor injuries and three sustained life-changing facial injuries.

The double-decker bus, on a contract with Stagecoach, was being used as a school bus to take students to the Henry Beaufort Secondary School.

Basingstoke Gazette: Martin Robert Walker at Basingstoke Magistrates' Court. Image: Solent News & Photo Agency

The court also heard how the collision was a result of Walker not taking the correct route down Bedfield Lane, and instead continuing onto Wellhouse Lane.

It was reported that several students voicing concerns that the bus had taken the incorrect route, and were shouting at Walker that the bus would not fit under the bridge and that he needed to turn around.

Statements heard in court showed that Walker had time to turn around after having to stop and let a car pass under the bridge before him.

Instead, he accelerated forward and under the bridge despite signs indicating that the bridge was subject to a 12ft height restriction, and the bus having a height of 13ft 11ins.

Walker continued to drive through the tunnel after the collision, ripping the entire roof of the bus from the vehicle.

DC Cate Paling, of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “Mr Walker’s driving clearly fell far below that of a competent and careful driver, and it was obvious to all the students on the bus that the vehicle would not fit below the bridge.

“This was a serious misjudgment on Walker’s part, and a moment of carelessness had drastic consequences.

“Three young people now have to live with life-changing facial injuries. It’s lucky that no one was killed, but this just goes to show how dangerous not paying full attention when driving can be.”

“We welcome the sentence handed out by the Crown Court today and want to remind anyone that drives in this manner and endangers the lives of others that you will be prosecuted.”