A speeding bus driver has been blamed for his own death after a witness said the vehicle was travelling faster than they had ever seen before.
Mohamed Bakari Chache, 50, was killed when his Stagecoach bus crashed into the parapet of Littlemill Bridge on the B9161 on the Black Isle in January last year.
Following a Fatal Accident Inquiry at Inverness, Sheriff Margaret Neilson said that the driver – known to passengers as ‘Smiler’ due to his happy demeanour – was responsible for his own death.
In her determination, published yesterday, Sheriff Neilson said: “The cause of the accident resulting in the death of said Mohamed Bakari Chache, was the bus being driven at excessive speed on the approach to the bend at Littlemill Bridge on the B9161 road at Littlemill Bridge.
“There are no precautions which had they been taken might have avoided the accident or the death. The available evidence indicates that the fatal injuries could have occurred whether or not a seat belt restraint was provided, and at any point during the initial impact with the bridge and the final resting place of the deceased and the vehicle.”
The Sheriff said Mr Chache had been a “valued” Stagecoach employee, liked by management, colleagues and his passengers.
On January 11 last year, he was driving the service bus No 26C from Inverness to Cromarty when he approached Littlemill Bridge at “excessive speed.”
The speed limit was 40mph and most drivers would cross the bridge at between 20 and 30mph. But Sheriff Neilson said “for reasons that are not clear” Mr Chache was driving at 52mph.
The bus failed to take the corner, crashing into the parapet of the bridge and landing in an adjoining field after rolling over.
The two female passengers on the bus survived, but required hospital treatment and were left “traumatised” by the event.
Added Sheriff Neilson: “Both passengers on the bus spoke to realising he was going too fast before the vehicle swerved off the road.
“The car driver who passed the bus noticed that it was travelling much faster than he had ever seen a bus travelling there before.
“The CCTV on the bus itself showed the speed on the approach to the bridge to have been 52 mph in a 40 mph limit at the bridge which other drivers tended to cross at somewhere between 20 and 30 mph.
“Travelling at 52 mph the bus would not be able to safely cross the bridge and the bus going off the road was virtually inevitable.”
There were no recommendations she could make which suggested any precautions may have prevented Mr Chache’s death.
She added: “Driving at excessive speed, as he undoubtedly did on 11 January 2019, appeared to be totally out of character.
“Any further discussion as to why he was, indisputably, driving too fast would involve speculation on my part.
“Accordingly I will limit my findings on that basis.”