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Fatal crash bus driver pressed accelerator instead of brake, court hears

Two people died after the vehicle crashed into a supermarket in Coventry in October 2015.

A 77-year-old bus driver smashed his double-decker into a supermarket, killing two people, after pressing down the throttle instead of the brake, a court has heard.

Prosecutors allege the “shockingly bad driving” by former Leamington Spa mayor Kailash Chander, now aged 80, occurred after he had worked three consecutive 75-hour weeks.

A jury at Birmingham Crown Court was also told Chander had been warned about the deteriorating standard of his driving and been told not to drive when tired, before the crash in Coventry city centre in October 2015.

Chander, from Leamington, has been judged medically unfit to plead or stand trial, and has been excused from attending a “finding-of-facts” trial which began on Tuesday.

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Kailash Chander has been judged medically unfit to plead or stand trial (Aaron Chown/PA)

Opening the case against Chander, prosecution QC Andrew Thomas said he had been charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and two of causing serious injury.

Bus passenger Rowan Fitzgerald, aged seven, and 76-year-old pedestrian Dora Hancox were both killed in the crash in Trinity Street, Coventry, on Saturday October 3.

Explaining the facts alleged against Chander, Mr Thomas told the court: “The prosecution say that the collision was caused by a gross driver error.

“It appears that Mr Chander had not appreciated he had left the bus in ‘drive’ – that is, in gear – when he arrived at the stop on Hales Street.

“The bus started to move as soon as he took the handbrake off. Once the bus had started to move Mr Chander held his foot down on the throttle pedal instead of the brake, and that caused the bus to accelerate out of control.

“We suggest that the only possible explanation was that he had become confused over the controls of the bus. He thought that his foot was on the brake, but in fact he was accelerating hard.”

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Floral tributes left at the scene outside the Sainsbury’s store (Matthew Cooper/PA)

Mr Thomas said Chander did not apply the brakes until “some seconds” after the bus had crashed into the Sainsbury’s store, damaging the upper deck, and come to a halt.

The barrister added: “So, this appears to be the case of a driver – a professional driver carrying a large number of passengers on a double-decker bus – who put his foot down on the accelerator instead of pressing the brake.

“And instead of realising his mistake, he kept his foot down on the accelerator throughout the journey. The prosecution say that by any objective standard it is shockingly bad driving.”

Mr Thomas told jurors that Chander will not give evidence during the trial, which will see the panel asked to consider whether or not the facts alleged have been proved.

The trial is expected to last until next week.

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Kailash Chander has been judged medically unfit to plead or stand trial (Aaron Chown/PA)
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Floral tributes left at the scene outside the Sainsbury’s store (Matthew Cooper/PA)