UPDATED: “I saw a woman holding the hand of a man who was clearly dead” – Emergency doctor

The compilation of evidence is being heard today in connection with the double decker bus accident in which two tourists were killed and many others injured. The accident happened on 9 April 2018.

The Court, presided over by Magistrate Joe Mifsud exempted the two accused, Lee Anne Borg and Noel Degabriele, who could not attend for medical reasons, however the sitting was held anyway. Together with the bus driver and two other directors of the tourist bus company, they were arraigned on 26 February, charged with causing the involuntary death of two tourists in the accident which happened three years ago.

Bus driver Charles D’Amato, 27 and the directors, Lee Anne Borg, 38, Kim Degabriele, 40, Noel Degabriele, 24  and Philip Degabriele, 32, had pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them. However, the arraignment had to be done again because a correction was made to the charges. They once again pleaded not guilty, with the two accused who were not present, answering via video conferencing.

Dr Jonathan Joslyn, Emergency doctor, testifies 

The first witness to take the stand was Dr Jonathan Joslyn, an Emergency doctor. He exhibited a document. He explained that on that day, a call came in to go to the scene of an accident ini Zabbar involving a double decker bus. He said that on the way, he learned that it was a very serious accident with people dead and many injured.

Dr Joslyn said Dr Michael Spiteri, who arrived just before him, told him that from his initial assessment this was a major accident and called for more ambulances, along with those run by voluntary organisations, which were not going to cope.

Dr Joslyn said as soon as he boarded the double decker he found many people sitting in the bottom deck, who were confused, shouting and crying. He added that as he entered he saw the windows on the right hand side splattered with blood which was dripping from the upper deck. He asked those who could walk to get off the bus, adding that no one in the bottom deck was injured.

“When I asked everyone to get off,  I realised that two people had not stood up

The consultant from the Emergency Department said that as soon as he climbed up to the upper deck, he saw a 6-year-old boy from the UK, who was having a fit, who could have stopped breathing and might have died within a few seconds. He called a nurse and the boy was taken immediately to the hospital. He said the boy had been struck directly by the tree and had several broken bones, including in his skull, and later ended up in the ITU. Dr Joslyn said that as soon as he asked everyone to get off the bus, he realised that two people did not stand up. He saw a woman holding a man’s hand who was clearly dead, in fact his arm was missing. Two seats behind him there was another dead woman, who had grievous head injuries.

Further up in front, there was a British man with a broken neck who was paralysed, with the children next to him clearly traumatised. Later it was confirmed that he had sustained grievous spinal injuries and had to be brought down with a turntable ladder.

Dr Joslyn said he also found the 8-year-old brother of the boy he had seen earlier who was also directly hit by the tree and who ended up in the ITU as well.

He added that the last person they approached was an Italian woman who was seated at the very front. He said that while she was the first person to be hit, the structure in the front part of the bus cushioned the blow, but she was still injured.

He said that the branch hit everyone who was sitting on the left-hand side. He added that the woman who was at the very back of the double Decker realised what was happened and crouched under her seat, but everything happened so quickly that she still hit; she had lacerations and part of her hair was torn off.

Dr Joslyn explained that 32 people were injured, four of whom were admitted to the ITU. He found the driver in an establishment next to the tree. He was in a state of shock and was taken to the hospital. He explained that within an hour the paramedics had managed to assess all the injured passengers.

Assistant Commissioner Sandro Gatt takes the stand

The second witness is Assistant Commissioner Sandro Gatt, stationed at the Major Crimes and Homicide Department, who at the time was stationed at the Zurrieq police station.

He said that he was informed of the accident at 4.30pm. He explained that he drove to the scene and as soon as he arrived at Triq il-Belt, Valletta he saw commotion, with paramedics, ambulances, RIU vehicles and a stationary double decker bus.

Assistant Commissioner Gatt said that as soon as he went up on the bus he saw a deceased woman with her head lowered and her hair hanging down, and close to her there was a deceased man whose left arm was missing, with a camera dangling around his neck.

He said that he was never involved in the investigation.

Inspector Malcolm Sammut testifies

Next to take the stand was Inspector Malcolm Sammut, stationed at the Special Intervention Unit. He said that as soon as he arrived on the scene he found commotion. The bus had several dents and there was blood dripping down the left hand side.

Inspector Pierguido Saliba, who was responsible for traffic said that he carried out a breathalyser test on the driver which resulted negative.

The Magistrate said that the decree for the prima facie will be heard one 26 March.