A MAN who crashed into a bus full of school children in Elderslie has avoided jail.

George Burke, drove at excessive speeds, ran a red light and repeatedly drove on the opposing carriageway on Linwood Road, Main Road and Glenpatrick Road in the town, in June 26, last year.

The 32-year-old appeared before Sheriff Sukhwinder Gill at Paisley Sheriff Court yesterday, where he admitted the charges against him.

The court heard how, Burke, of Waterside Lane in Kilbarchan, also conceded to take £76.51 worth petrol from Asda at Linwood’s Phoenix Retail Park before making off without paying.

Procurator fiscal Ziad Ul Hassan said around 3pm, a store manager at Smyths Toys was in the delivery area when he observed a blue Jaguar drive in and head towards him.

Mr Ul Hassan said Burke had asked to purchase poles but was told that there were not for sale. Burke then drove off and the manager contacted police as he found the encounter suspicious.

“The accused later drove over to the Asda petrol station at the Phoenix Retail Park in Linwood,” Mr Ul Hassan said.

“He filled his car and drove off making no effort to pay. Staff members contacted the police and as they arrived, they observed the accused in the vehicle, and they activated their blues lights.

“Police officers were in pursuit, but the traffic was heavy and there were several cars on the carriageway before the accused went into Glenpatrick Road. Due to his manner of driving, the police officers were told to stand down.

“The accused was observed in the distance, driving at excessive speeds through Glenpatrick Road. 

“At this time, there was a school bus and the bus driver looked in his mirror and saw the accused driving towards him. He believed that the accused was going to collide with him and tried to manoeuvre his vehicle and he mounted the pavement.”

The court heard how this made Burke swerve and ultimately collide with the bus that was carrying pupils. He then made off down a narrow, country road and was followed by police officers after they were flagged down by the bus driver.

Mr Ul Hassan continued: “Another witness was driving a school bus, but this was empty. The passenger on the bus had observed the accused driving at speed and merging onto the other side of the road to overtake another witness on a blind bend in the road.

“As the accused was doing this, the witness had to take action to prevent a collision from happening, causing the accused to swerve and lose control, hitting the witness’s vehicle. The accused exited the vehicle and ran towards a large grass field.

“Witnesses gave chase and shortly after, police officers arrived. They ran towards where the accused went and detained him. His vehicle was seized.”

Defence solicitor Gordon Nicol said Burke was “absolutely realistic” to what could have happened.

He said: “Mr Burke understands that he could have killed someone and thankfully nobody was hurt.”

Sheriff Gill told Burke: “There is no doubt that you drove like a maniac and you have accepted that you could have killed someone. 

“In particular, the children on the school bus could have been hurt.”

As a direct alternative to custody, Burke was told to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work and he was tagged and ordered to remain in his home from 7pm-7am for four months.

He was also disqualified from driving for 19 months.