Stowaway Found Under County Durham School Coach
5 July 2011, 10:22
Teachers from a County Durham school calmed children returning from a school trip to France by conducting a sing-along when a suspected stowaway began banging on the underside of their coach.
Worried staff from Hummersknott Academy near Darlington, rang police as they headed towards London, who told them to carry on driving until officers could meet them.
Police found the man hanging on to the rear axle of the coach and he was arrested without him coming into contact with any of the 47 children, who were aged between 11 and 13.
The incident happened as the pupils returned from a trip to Paris last Wednesday.
They had come through the Channel Tunnel and were approaching the outskirts of London when the banging started.
Teachers kept the children calm by leading a 20-minute sing-song, including If You're Happy And You Know It and Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.
The bus was heading for Bromley, south east London, but after the commotion set off for Lewisham police station.
The vehicle's satellite navigation system took them down narrow roads, so it was met by a group of patrol cars.
Hummersknott head Pat Howarth said:
'Initially the children wouldn't have known what was going on and I think their first reaction was that they were quite scared.
'The staff intervention, starting the communal singing, got them in a calm state.'
Mr Howarth praised the driver's actions in not stopping the coach until the police arrived, preventing the man from escaping.
'His first priority was to make sure the children were safe,
'They were never in contact with the man, they never saw him.'
The children were accompanied by three teachers, two former pupils and a retired staff member.
In accordance with the industry code of conduct, the driver and a teacher checked the vehicle for stowaways before the coach left France.
Staff believe the man must have got under the bus in a secure area close to the tunnel entrance in France.
Mr Howarth said:
'It's just an unfortunate incident. Everyone has done everything right and followed all the correct procedures.
'I would like to praise the professionalism of staff in dealing with the incident.'