AN ELDERLY bus driver ploughed into Sainsbury’s supermarket killing two people when he mistook the accelerator for the brake after working three consecutive 75-hour weeks, a court heard.
Kailash Chander, 80, is accused of causing the fatal smash in Coventry city centre after ignoring warnings not to work when he was tired due to his ‘deteriorating standard of driving’.
The former Leamington mayor lost control of the the Stagecoach bus which smashed into the supermarket on Trinity Street in Coventry on October 3, 2015.
Seven-year-old Rowan Fitzgerald from Leamington, who was sitting on the top deck with his grandfather was killed in the crash.
Dora Hancox, 76, also died after being hit by the bus and a falling lamppost as she walked past a cash machine at the supermarket.
Two more were seriously injured – including Rowan’s eight-year old cousin.
The jury at Bimingham Crown Court was told the fatal smash was caused by a ‘gross driver error’ and ‘shockingly bad driving’ by Mr Chander after he worked the three consecutive 75-hour weeks.
The driver had also ignored warnings about his standard of driving and carried on with his ‘demanding job’ despite putting passengers at risk, the court heard.
Mr Chander was charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
But he was found medically unfit to stand trial and has been excused from attending the finding-of-facts trial, which began on Tuesday (September 11).
Opening the prosecution’s case, Andrew Thomas QC said after the double decker pulled off from the bus stop it immediately collided with the back of another bus which was waiting in front of it.
He said: “That was a glancing blow. The double decker then continued on, accelerating to a dangerous speed for that road, at one point veering off the road and onto a grass verge.
“Pedestrians had to run to avoid being hit. The bus collided with a lamp post and several flag poles, knocking them down.
“Sadly, not all of the pedestrians were able to get out of the way.
“The collision, and the deaths which resulted from it, were entirely the result of the dangerous way in which the bus was driven.”
Jurors were told the entire incident was caught on CCTV showing Chander losing control of the bus before it crashed into the supermarket.
Mr Thomas added: “It appears that Mr Chander had forgotten he had left the bus in gear when he arrived at the stop.
“Once the bus had started to move Mr Chander held his foot on the throttle pedal instead of the brake, causing the bus to accelerate out of control.
“He thought his foot was on the brake, but in fact he was accelerating hard. He did not apply the brakes until some seconds after the bus had crashed and come to a halt.
“The prosecution say that by any objective standard it is shockingly bad driving.
“Mr Chander was an experienced driver, but at the time of this accident he was 77-years-old and well past the point of retirement.
“As you will hear, he had been warned previously about the deteriorating standard of his driving.
“He had been allowed to carry on driving but warned not to drive when he was tired. He ignored that warning.
“In the three weeks leading up to this collision the defendant had worked driving buses for at least 75 hours.
“Think about what that means – he was 77-years-old, doing a demanding job which gives rise to a risk to public safety, and he was working back-to-back weeks of 75 hours.
“The prosecution say that that in itself was dangerous.”
The trial continues.