A COACH driver has been jailed for six years following a crash on the M5 near Halesowen last year, in which two people died.

Despite the vehicle having mechanical defects, Jasminder Dhesi drove it onto the motorway in thick fog where it broke down.

It was stuck on the carriageway near junction three where there was no hard shoulder when a lorry smashed into it.

The 65-year-old lorry driver, William Mapstone, from Wells, Somerset, died in hospital later in the day and coach passenger Liaquat Ali, aged 35, from Smethwick, died at the scene.

A further 30 people were injured in the crash which happened on the southbound carriageway in the early hours of Saturday March 24 2012.

Dhesi, aged 50, from Great Barr, was sentenced yesterday at Birmingham Crown Court to two terms of six years imprisonment to run concurrently, after previously pleading guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

The court heard that prior to the collision the coach had twice lost power and Dhesi had pulled over onto the hard shoulder momentarily.

Despite the fog and the vehicle's unreliability, Dhesi continued with the journey but the coach again broke down in a section of the motorway where there was no hard shoulder.

During the hearing the court also heard that he failed a roadside breath test immediately after the crash, although when in police custody his sample registered as 31 milligrams, which is below the legal limit.

In sentencing Dhesi, Judge Michael Chambers QC referred to the evidence which suggested the father-of-two had been drinking prior to getting behind the wheel which was an aggravating factor.

Inspector Mark Watkins, from the regional collision investigation unit, said: "Jasminder Dhesi made a fatal error when he took a coach full people onto the motorway knowing there were serious mechanical faults on the vehicle.

"His criminal error of judgement in going onto the M5 in thick fog led to the inevitable loss of two lives, caused a man to remain in hospital to this day, and left 29 others with injuries.

"I hope today's sentencing offers some comfort to the families of those who died and suffered injuries in this collision."