Bus company fined £2.3 million for failings which led to deaths of Leamington boy and pensioner

Bus company Midland Red has been fined £2.35 million for health and safety breaches after an elderly employee caused a fatal crash in Coventry city centre.

Tuesday, 27th November 2018, 1:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 5:15 pm
Image from the scene of the Bus crash at Sainsbury's in Coventry in 2015. Picture courtesy of West Midlands Ambulance Service.

In 2015 and at the age of 77 Kailash Chander, now 80 and a former Leamington mayor who lives in the town, was driving one of the company's double decker buses in the city centre when he mistook the vehicle's accelerator pedal for the brake and crashed it into a Sainsbury's supermarket.

Seven-year-old passenger Rowan Fitzgerald, from Sydenham, was killed by sustaining a head injury in the incident as was pedestrian Dora Hancox, 76, who was hit by the bus and a falling lamppost.

Chander was found to have been driving dangerously at a fact finding trial in September.

Kailash Chander

He could not be found guilty as he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.

The bus company, which is part of the Stagecoach group, was sentenced alongside Chander, who was diagnosed with dementia after the crash, at a two-day hearing at Birmingham Crown Court.

Judge Paul Farrer said "the failings of the company were a significant cause" of the crash.

Warnings about Chander were "not enforced, and almost immediately ignored," he said.

Rowan Fitzgerald

Chander was handed a two-year supervision order, meaning he will be monitored by a doctor.

Rowan's mother, Natasha Wilson, has said Rowan "had a heart of gold" and that he was "his family's sunshine on hard days".

Phil Medlicott, managing director of Midland Red (South) Ltd said the company is "deeply sorry" and "bears the weight of our responsibility for this tragedy".

"We deeply regret the opportunities that were missed to act decisively on emerging warning signs," he said.

The bus company admitted failings including allowing Chander to work in excess of 70-hours a week and allowing him to continue working despite warnings about his driving.

The trial in September found Chander had been warned about his "erratic" driving by the company after four crashes in three years.

Matt Western, MP for Warwick and Leamington, is now calling for changes to the law to limit the hours bus drivers can work.

He said: “Midland Red are clearly at least partly culpable for the death of 7- year-old Rowan Fitzgerald, from my constituency, as well as Nuneaton resident Dora Hancox.

"A fine is not enough.

"Someone at Stagecoach should have been held account for this tragedy.

"In the four weeks leading up to'¯the accident the driver worked 62 hours,'¯76 hours, 76 hours and 75 hours.

"This is entirely legal under UK law, as local bus drivers are not subject to the same working hour regulations as long-distance bus drivers or HGV drivers.

"I believe this tragedy could have been avoided if working hours for local bus drivers were capped at 56 hours a week, as it already is for long distance bus drivers and HGV drivers.

"It is now time for the Government to help change the law to make sure long working hours don’t lead to such tragic consequences again.

"I will be leading this campaign in Parliament.”