A driver who crashed a minibus full of people on their way home from a Christmas market has been sentenced today (November 17).

Bogdan Ksiakez, 44, was driving a white Mercedes minibus when he collided with a black Volkswagen Golf on the B1040 Somersham Road.

He failed to give way at the junction with Bluntisham Heath Road at about 4.50pm on Thursday, November 14, 2019. At the time, he was employed as a driver by a travel company and was transporting 18 passengers home from a return trip to the Christmas market at Ely Cathedral.

Ksiakez was using a hands-free navigation system which warned him of heavy traffic on the A14 and caused him to take an alternative route through the village of Bluntisham.

However, he then reached a crossroads and ignored warning signs telling him to slow down and give way.

He crossed the junction at 29mph as another motorist, Michael Everett, was driving his Volkswagen Golf on the B1040 heading from St Ives towards Somersham.

Mr Everett was driving at about 45 mph on the 60mph limit road when the minibus came directly into his path. He didn’t have enough time to stop and collided with the rear nearside of the minibus, causing the bus to overturn and slide onto Wheatsheaf Road.

As a result three minibus passengers died. Margaret Henwood, 85, of Foxlease Road, Bedford, died at the scene and Barbara McGruer, 86, of Trent Road, Bedford, died on Saturday, 16 November.

Richard Kenworthy, 72, of Judith Road, Kettering, died in hospital almost a month later, on Friday, 13 December.

Mr Everett also suffered serious injuries, together with seven other passengers in the minibus. A total of 18 people, all aged between 60 and 80, were taken to hospital.

A forensic collision investigation concluded the collision was caused by significant driver error, namely Ksiakez failing to give way.

Ksiakez was interviewed and claimed he had “pretty much stopped” at the junction but decided to cross as the VW Golf seemed far away. He also claimed the VW Golf was going “far too fast” but by the time he realised this, it was too late.

In his second interview he maintained these claims, despite tachograph data from the minibus revealing he had not stopped at the junction and further data showing the VW Golf was driving at below the speed limit.

Ksiakez, of Sycamore Close, Towcester, Northamptonshire, stood trial at Cambridge Crown Court from 8 November. He admitted three counts of causing death by careless driving, but denied anything further.

However, a jury at Cambridge Crown Court found him guilty by majority verdict of causing three counts of death by dangerous driving and a further eight counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Today ( November 17 ) he was sentenced to five years in prison and he has been banned from driving for four and a half years, on his release.

Detective Sergeant Mark Dollard, from the Beds, Cambs and Herts (BCH) Road Policing Unit, said: “This was a truly heartbreaking collision that I’m sure is still remembered by many, not least the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives or were injured that day.

“Ksiakez was a bus driver responsible for his passengers on that fateful evening. He made a significant driving error in failing to recognise the presence of the junction despite the numerous warning signs available to him, this was dangerous and the jurors agreed.

"His driving fell far below what should have been expected of him. Any junction has the potential to be dangerous if road users do not approach it with suitable care.

“Our thoughts go out to all those affected by the collision which tragically took place just before Christmas two years ago. I hope today’s verdict highlights the utter devastation which can be caused by driver error, and also helps bring some closure in this case.”

In a statement, the family of Richard Kenworthy said: "Richard was a fun-loving hippie at heart who lived life to the full. He loved exploring day trips and holidays and the grandchildren greatly miss their grandad's tales. There is a great gap in our lives now; he is greatly missed.”

Margaret Henwood's family said: “Margaret Eileen Henwood was 85 at the time of her tragic and sudden passing. She was a wonderfully bold and courageous lady and was a dearly loved sister, mother in law and grandmother in law.

“She is greatly missed every day and now that this trial is over, her loved ones can draw a line under what has happened and try to move forward.”

The family of Barbara McGruer said: “Our mother, Barbara McGruer, was a formidable woman; she was strong, resilient and no-nonsense, but also warm, funny, fun and a great story-teller.

“At 86, she was still going strong and played an active part in our family both as a mother and grandmother. As such, her untimely death has had a profound effect on us all; we miss her deeply.

“This is a dreadful and sad situation for all those affected by the accident that was caused by Mr Ksiazek’s mistake that day.

“However, we wish to make it clear that we bear no ill will towards Mr Ksiazek. Moreover, it is our belief that, being the pragmatic woman that she was, our mother would feel the same.”