A bus driver who died after a school coach crash suffered “medical issues” behind the wheel of the vehicle, his family said.
Stephen Shrimpton, 40, and passenger Jessica Baker, 15, died after the vehicle overturned on the northbound M53 near junction five at Hooton, Cheshire, at around 8am on Friday.
Four children were taken to hospital, including a 14-year-old boy whose injuries are said to be life-changing. They remain in a stable condition. A further 13 pupils were treated for minor injuries.
The bus was travelling to West Kirby all-girls grammar school and Calday Grange all-boys grammar school, also in West Kirby, Merseyside.
On Saturday, Mr Shrimpton’s family paid tribute to the “loving” and “caring” father who will be “sadly missed by all his friends and family.”
Writing on GoFundMe, his sister-in-law Emily Church said: “Stephen tragically died in an accident on the M53, after suffering medical issues at the wheel while driving students to school.”
Ms Church said he had left behind his wife and two children aged eight and four. In a statement, his family added: “Stephen was a loving husband and father to his wife and his wonderful children.
“He was a caring a thoughtful man who would always prioritise others over himself. Stephen will be sadly missed by all his friends and family.”
Witnesses said children were sobbing after they escaped from the back window of the bus and were standing on the hard shoulder after it had overturned.
On Saturday, mourners were seen laying flowers at West Kirby Grammar School. Police were also present at the school, which opened its doors this morning to allow parents and children to pay tribute.
One woman, with a yellow umbrella, appeared with a bouquet of flowers. Another man, and a younger boy, walked up to the school with two dogs and three sunflowers.
Jessica’s family issued a photograph of her through Merseyside Police as they requested privacy. In a statement, the force said: “Jessica Baker sadly died as a result of the collision on the M53 northbound carriageway earlier today.
“Jessica’s family have requested that their privacy is respected at this time and any updates from them will be issued via Merseyside Police news office as appropriate.”
Detective Sergeant Andy Roper, of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “The thoughts of everyone at Merseyside Police remain with those who were affected by the tragic incident yesterday.
“The families of Stephen and Jessica are being supported by specially trained officers and we are working with both schools and Wirral and Cheshire West councils to ensure the necessary trauma support is in place for the children who were affected.”
Post-mortem examinations will be carried out next week to establish the official cause of death of Jessica and Mr Shrimpton.