A BUS driver who killed two people was driving dangerously, a jury has found.
Driver of the Stagecoach Midlands double decker, 80-year-old Kailash Chander suffers from dementia and was found unfit to stand trial at Birmingham Crown Court. Instead a trial of the facts was held.
The former Leamington mayor was ruled to have been driving dangerously when the bus crashed into Sainsbury’s supermarket in Trinity Street, Coventry, on October 3 2015.
Seven-year-old Rowan Fitzgerald from Leamington was on the top deck of the bus with his family when it crashed. Rowan died at the scene and his cousin suffered serious injuries, along with another passenger.
Pedestrian Dora Hancox, aged 76, was hit by the bus as it careered towards the supermarket, she also died at the scene.
Chander had retired from his position as a bus driver at the age of 65, but was immediately taken on as a casual driver. He worked an average of 75 hours per week in the three weeks preceding the day of the crash.
The jury saw CCTV footage which showed the bus being driven by Chander – then aged 77 – pull out from behind a single decker bus at speed. It clipped the rear end of the other bus before careering onto grass, narrowly missing pedestrians and taxis. As it reached the road, Mrs Hancox was struck and the bus stopped with the canopy of Sainsbury’s embedded in the top deck.
The bus company, Midland Red South – now Stagecoach Midlands – was charged with health and safety offences, including failure to ensure the safety of the public and employees in allowing Chander to work so many hours despite warnings about his driving performance.
The firm pleaded guilty to the offences at an earlier hearing.
Investigating officer Sgt Alan Wood, from the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “This has been a challenging and lengthy investigation and we know the conclusions can give little satisfaction to Dora and Rowan’s families.
“Chander’s dementia issues mean he cannot be formally tried for his driving that day and we really feel for the families that justice cannot truly be served against him.
“His employers have rightly pleaded guilty for their failure to manage their staff appropriately and place people as risk. However, Chander did not have to work the hours that he chose to do.
“I know the families of Rowan and Dora cannot comprehend how a 77-year-old man could legally work a 75-hour week driving public service vehicles. I have to agree with their observations; common sense would say this cannot be right and it would appear a legal review of rules for bus drivers hours is appropriate.“
Rowan’s family is now calling for a change to the law to the age of bus drivers and hours worked.
They said: “It is clear both Chander and the management of Stagecoach Midlands are both fully responsible.
“For three years we have wanted answers to why this happened and to see justice for both Rowan and for Dora Hancox.
“While the dementia issues of Chander have been explained to us and the court is satisfied that he is unfit to stand trial, we wish to point out a few things. At the time of the collision, this was a man who had retired as a bus driver 12 years earlier, returned as a casual driver and volunteered for numerous hours driving, despite warnings and awareness of fatigue issues. Despite these warnings, put his name forward every day to drive and in the weeks before had worked 75 hour weeks. This is a decision that he alone made and a decision that has certainly contributed to the death of Rowan. We are sure the dangerous driving that he did on the day of the collision was a consequence of both his age and his fatigue.
“Likewise for the management to allow someone of that age and with such a poor employment record, to drive for such lengthy periods is total stupidity. He should not have been allowed to drive.
“The court findings gives us no satisfaction, no sentence would ever stop the hurt that we feel for the loss of Rowan. However, we have real concerns that the deaths of Rowan and Dora will not be the last if laws are not reassessed and changed.
“We don’t want the reasons why Rowan and Dora died to be forgotten, we want to see something positive come from this and at this time we feel this will only come from a change in law on bus drivers’ age and hours of work. This would prevent anyone having to go through what we have gone through over the last three years.
“We will be talking to our local MP and asking for this to be addressed for changes in the law.
“We would like to thank everyone for the support you have shown us as a family over these three years. We continue to attempt to rebuild our lives and would ask that our privacy is respected whilst we continue to do this.”