Press and Journal

Bus driver’s hands were shaking before death crash, court told

A 77-year-old bus driver who smashed into a supermarket, killing two people, struggled to punch a ticket seconds earlier because his hands were shaking, a jury has heard.

Kailash Chander, who had been warned about his “erratic” driving after four crashes in the previous three years, is alleged to have had difficulty with the “easy” task moments before mistaking his accelerator for the foot-brake.

Birmingham Crown Court has been shown CCTV footage of the front of Chander’s double-decker narrowly missing a crowd of pedestrians as it ploughed into a Sainsbury’s store in Coventry in 2015.

The scene after a double decker bus crashed into a Sainsbury’s supermarket on Trinity Street in Coventry (WMAS/PA)

Giving evidence on the second day of a trial-of-facts hearing, bus passenger Casper Mudenha said people ran away from the bus as he gripped a handrail on the vehicle’s lower deck.

Describing what happened after, he handed Chander his return ticket on the Coventry-to-Leamington Spa service, Mr Mudenha told the court: “The driver is supposed to check its validity and they normally punch it to show it’s been used.

“When I presented the ticket, he took some time to punch it. He was struggling to put the ticket in [to a slot] and punch it.”

Asked by prosecution QC Andrew Thomas what the problem seemed to be, Mr Mudenha added: “He was shaking, his hands were shaking. I asked him to just rip it and give it back to me.”

Jurors were told that Chander – who was said to be shaking “to the extent of not being able” to insert the ticket into the slot – eventually managed to punch it and set off before Mr Mudenha could go to the upper deck.

The witness added: “Before I stepped on the stairs, the vehicle was in motion and he hit a single-decker which was in front of him.

“I remember the revving noise. There was taxi rank on the right, which he veered towards. It all happened so quickly. There were some flagpoles he was hitting and smashing down.

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

“You could see people running away from the bus. Then it stopped by hitting the Sainsbury’s wall.”

Invited to tell the jury panel what the journey felt like, the passenger told the court: “It felt like the bus was out of control. I was focusing on saving myself, holding as tight as I could to the rails.”

Mr Mudenha, who was treated for muscle injuries, said he heard screaming after the crash and the driver had nodded when he asked if he was ok.

Bus passenger Rowan Fitzgerald, aged seven, and 76-year-old pedestrian Dora Hancox were both killed in the crash in Trinity Street, Coventry, on October 3, 2015.

Chander, from Leamington Spa, is charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but has been judged medically unfit to enter a plea or stand trial.

The now 80-year-old has been excused from attending the “finding-of-facts” trial.