Court hears how former Leamington mayor ‘looked shattered’ on the day of fatal crash

Former Mayor of Leamington Spa Kailash Chander. Photo by SWNS/News Team.
Former Mayor of Leamington Spa Kailash Chander. Photo by SWNS/News Team.

An elderly bus driver who killed two people when he smashed into a supermarket looked “shattered” on the day of the crash, a court heard.

Kailash Chander, 80, had just completed three weeks of 17 hour shifts when he ploughed the double decker into a Sainsbury’s on October 3, 2015.

Rowan Fitzgerald. Photo by SWNS/News Team.

Rowan Fitzgerald. Photo by SWNS/News Team.

Rowan Fitzgerald, seven, who was sitting on the top deck with his grandfather, was killed along with pedestrian Dora Hancox, 76.

She was hit by the bus as well as a falling lamppost as she walked past a cash machine at the supermarket in Coventry.

A court heard Chander, the former mayor of Leamington, lost control of the Stagecoach bus after ignoring warnings not to work when he was tired.

He was on his seventh consecutive day of working - a day which was supposed to be his rest day - when the crash occurred.

Yesterday (Wednesday September 12) a fellow bus driver told how Chander would take any hours he was offered by Stagecoach who would regular ask him to do additional shifts.

This was despite bosses being told to use him as a “last resort” due to his deteriorating standard of driving in recent months, jurors were told.

Nigel Nicholson, a driver for Stagecoach Midlands, previously known as Midland Red, said he was “gobsmacked” at how shattered Chander looked on the day of the crash.

He told Birmingham Crown Court: “I was driving a singe decker bus on October 3 2015.

“I stopped at the Opposite Parish Church stop in Leamington and saw Kailash Chander standing by a lamp post.

“He looked shattered. He looked like there was something wrong with him. He looked upset about something.

“He did not look his usual self. He’s a nice bloke.

“I thought I would go out and speak to him.

“I said are you all right Doc? [Mr Chander’s nickname]

“He said to me ‘no, I’m not all right’.

“He had just done three weeks solid in Rugby and this was supposed to be his day off. He was leaving his house at 4am and not returning until 9pm.

“He said he had been given a duty to finish and was already running 25 minutes late.

“I said ‘you look knackered, why don’t you ring them up and tell them to go f**k themselves because you look knackered mate’.

“But Doc being Doc I knew he wouldn’t. I got on my bus and continued on my route.

“He never got angry, that’s why we called him the Doc. He did look knackered. He looked shattered - more than he normally did.

“It was his expression and the way he stood. He just did not look right. I got out to make sure he was all right.

“I was gob-smacked - I was shocked. I remember it well - it’s a day somebody’s life changed forever.

“He was a casual driver and should have been doing two days a week but he was doing more hours than I was [Mr Nicholson was contracted to work 39 hours a week].

“I did not know his age until this happened. I did not realise he was 77. To be 77, he hadn’t aged that bad.

“He would take any hours the company offered him. I’m sure they had his number on speed dial. They knew he wasn’t doing anything else and he wouldn’t say no.

“He didn’t drive at excessive speeds. He was often late on his routes - he was never early.”

A Stagecoach controller, Thomas Grant, made a call to Chander after the accident at 6pm during which Chander said he was “in Sainsbury’s”.

Mr Grant said: “Mr Chander was driving the last X18 out of Coventry that evening.

“He called me at 5.20pm to say he was running about 15 minutes late. I said to continue on his route and we would see how he was doing when he got to Stratford.

“He made no complaint to me. He sounded his normal self.

“When another driver phoned me up, I knew there was an accident.

“He said he could not go into Trinity Street because police had closed the road.

“I was told that a bus had gone into Sainsbury’s.

“I could see on the system Mr Chander was travelling at 0mph. I rang Mr Chander to see what was happening. He sounded shaken up.

“He said ‘I’m in Sainsbury’s’.

“I said have you had an accident and he said ‘yes’. There was screaming and there was people shouting in the background.

“Afterwards I spoke to a police officer and they said ‘there was CCTV in the vehicle, would it be working and could it be taken off?’.

“But it was March 2015 it had last recorded. It should have been working. It should be checked by an engineer every six weeks.

“I am not aware that there is any legal requirement for CCTV on buses. It’s Stagecoach’s policy to check it, but not a legal requirement.

“After Mr Chander came out of the driving school earlier that year, we were told to use him as a last resort and if we were going to use him to speak to management.”

Chander had been 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.

The case continues.