Shocked passengers have told how the bus they were on crashed off a main road when the driver collapsed.
About 20 people were on board the single-deck number 17 Stagecoach bus when it smashed into bushes off the A281 at Monks Gate.
The 52-year-old driver was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, after collapsing shortly before 7pm on Monday. A Stagecoach spokesman said the Shoreham resident, who works from the bus company’s Henfield depot, was “seriously ill” and added: “Our thoughts right now are with his family.”
One passenger, also unnamed by the emergency services, was treated for neck and shoulder pain and taken to Worthing Hospital.
Sandra Jones, 53, who was on the bus with her 11-year-old daughter Ciara, told The Resident: “It was a very scary experience. The bus was heading south when it started to lose acceleration for a few seconds for no apparent reason. It then veered left. I realised then that the bus seemed not to have anyone in control of it.
“It crashed into the bushes and continued for a few metres, sending glass showering inside, before grinding to a halt. All of the passengers managed to exit quickly through the emergency door at the back as smoke started pouring from the vehicle. The front door was blocked by bushes.
“The emergency services were called and several passengers went to help the driver. What an awful experience for him too. We hope he makes a full recovery.”
A passenger who asked to remain anonymous told The Resident: “The driver seemed fine when I got on the bus at Cowfold. Everything seemed normal.
“We stopped in Mannings Heath even though no one pressed the bell to get off, which was a bit unusual. Then as we went down into Monks Gate, I noticed we were going quite slowly. As we went round a bend we started to go over the central white lines, then we drifted back across the road and went into the bushes.
“I don’t think we were anywhere near the speed limit (40 mph). Everyone ducked for cover late on, but I don’t think anyone twigged what was going on until we were pretty much in the bushes. Some of the branches cracked the glass on the nearside of the bus, with little shards of glass coming in.
“We were able to open the emergency door. People piled out of the back and went over the other side of the road. Drivers stopped their cars and tried to see what was going on. I called the emergency services and the fire brigade were there quickly.
“I just hope the driver is okay. I use that bus service regularly and see him a lot.”
No other vehicles were involved in the crash, which led police to close the A281 in both directions near the junction with Nuthurst Road.
Anyone who saw what happened can phone police on 101, quoting serial number 1741 of September 17.