A LORRY driver whose steam engine load fell off and crushed a bus load of passengers has been jailed for 18 months.

Philip Last was driving a Daf Low Loader which was carrying the six-tonne vintage steam engine in East Mersea Road, West Mersea, when it fell off the trailer and onto a bus.

Dad-of-two Last had admitted six counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving after failing to secure the “exceptionally heavy” load using both straps and chains before the horrific incident on September 23, 2015.

His negligence left First bus driver Michael Birch with life-threatening injuries, which included a protruding bowel, two broken shoulders, a broken arm, a punctured lung and a fractured pelvis.

Five other victims sustained extremely serious injuries - with at least one being disabled for life.

Jailing Last for a total of 18 months for all counts at Ipswich Crown Court today, Judge David Goodin said: “You took a short cut and you know you took a shortcut and you knew what you had done was defective and couldn’t bring yourself to face it.

“Any sentence that I can lawfully pass here does not address the agony, injury and suffering of your six most seriously injured victims but it must be one of immediate imprisonment.”

Last, of Northgate Street, Great Yarmouth, will serve half of the 18-month sentence in prison before being released on licence back into the community.

He was also disqualified from driving for 21 months.

Last previously had a clean driving licence and lost his job as a result of the incident. He now works as a labourer.

The 53-year-old, who wore a grey suit and carried a bag when he arrived at court, had shown significant and genuine remorse and had helped injured people at the scene.

He was also the first person to call the emergency services.

After the incident, police were contacted by another lorry driver, who spotted the load was insecure while waiting in a queue to join the A14 on the way to the island.

That driver told police as Last’s vehicle moved off, the steam engine fell backwards by about one inch.

Paramedics said a combination of Mr Birch’s small build and the fact he was driving an older bus, which had a bigger cab, helped save his life.

Speaking five months after his injuries, Mr Birch, who was treated at the Royal London Hospital, said: “I remember waking up and the bus was a mess.

“I looked down and saw my stomach and then I blacked out.”

Mr Birch was in hospital for a month and underwent seven operations including a skin graft from his thigh on to his right hand and using a piece of his hip bone to repair his index finger.

As a result of his injuries, his driving licence has also been revoked.

At the time of the incident, Last had been employed by RM Cowles Transport for six years.

That company had been contracted to transport the steam engine, which was based in East Mersea, to and from a steam engine rally, in Trinity Park, in Ipswich.

In a statement to the court, Mr Last said: “I am genuinely and truly sorry for the awful consequences which resulted from his failure to ensure the low loader was properly secured that day.”