20th Sep, 2018

Elderly bus driver looked 'shattered' on day of crash which killed two people, court hears

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.

Former Leamington mayor Kailash Chander, 80, had just completed three weeks of 75 hour shifts when he ploughed the double decker into Sainsbury’s on Trinity Street on October 3, 2015.

Rowan Fitzgerald, seven, who was sitting on the top deck with his grandfather, was killed along with pedestrian Dora Hancox, 76, who was hit by the bus and a falling lamppost.

A court heard Mr Chander 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.

A fellow bus driver told the court how Mr Chander would take any hours he was offered by Stagecoach who would regularly 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 Mr Chander – who colleagues nicknamed Doc – looked on the day of the crash.

He told Birmingham Crown Court: “I was driving a bus on October 3 and stopped 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.

“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.

“I said ‘you look knackered mate’.

“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.

“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 Mr Chander after the accident at 6pm during which Chander said he was ‘in Sainsbury’s’

Mr Grant said Mr Chander sounded his ‘normal self’ when he spoke to him before the crash.

He also said despite CCTV being fitted inside buses the system had not recorded since 2015.

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

“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.

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