The granddaughter of a man killed in the Croydon tram disaster which took the lives of seven people and seriously injured a further 21 passengers has said the driver's acquittal is like being "stabbed in the chest".
Relatives of the seven people killed in the south London crash were left "deflated" on Monday when Alfred Dorris, 49, was cleared of failing to take “reasonable care” of the health and safety of himself and his 69 passengers on Tram 2551 in November 2016.
Dorris was doing three times the speed he should have been going when his tram derailed on a sharp corner at Sandilands.
Mr Dorris denied he had a “micro-sleep” and said he became disorientated in the tunnel on approach to the curve, believing he was heading the other way.
His confusion was blamed on a combination of external factors including poor lighting and signage in the Sandilands tunnel complex, darkness and bad weather.
A jury deliberated for less than two hours on Monday to reach its unanimous verdict following the prosecution brought by the Office of Road and Rail (ORR).
But relatives of the victims hit out at the acquittal.
Dane Chinnery, 19, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, Robert Huxley, 63, and Philip Logan, 52, all from New Addington, and Donald Collett, 62, and Mark Smith, 35, both from Croydon, all died in the crash.
Philip Logan's granddaughter, Danielle Wynne, was at court for the verdict. She said: “There has to be some kind of accountability.
“A not guilty verdict to me is like someone stabbing me in the chest. It feels so deflating.
“If I got into my car and I did what he did at the speed that he did, then I would go to prison.”
She added: “My grandad and this incident will never be forgotten. It’s a date that’s etched into my mind.
“Our family feels truly let down by the justice system.”
Wynne said: “I don’t believe that morning [Dorris] set out to kill anyone. But he did kill people. There has to be some kind of accountability.
“As far as I’m concerned, accident or not, he’s taken no accountability for his actions that morning.
“There was only one person who was in control of that tram on that morning, and it was that driver.”
Giving evidence on Thursday, Mr Dorris wept as he said he became confused and was convinced he was heading in the opposite direction, only realising his mistake when it was too late.
He said: “I woke up in the morning expecting to have a normal day. I did not leave with the intention of not driving with reasonable care for my passengers or myself.
"I’m a human being and sometimes as a human being things happen to you that you are not in control of.
'I’m sorry that I became disorientated. I’m sorry I was not able to do anything to stop myself from becoming disorientated.
"And I’m deeply sorry I was not able to do anything to reorientate myself and stop the tram from turning over. I’m deeply sorry."
Joe Collett, whose brother Donald died in the derailment, said there were “no winners at all” and that he felt the system had let him down.
He told reporters outside the Old Bailey he was “very disappointed” because “the only one who knows what happened and the truth is Mr Dorris”.
He said: “He had done the journey several thousand times and this day (he) said he had a bad day – but seven people had a worst day.
“He knows what he’s done. He knows the truth. He was the driver.
“I’ve got no real feelings against him because he didn’t intend to do what happened.”
Transport for London (TfL) and Tram Operations Limited (ToL) have previously admitted health and safety offences relating to significant failings ahead of the catastrophic derailment and will be sentenced next month.
Previously, the court heard it had been a wet, wintry morning when Tram 2551 embarked on its route from New Addington to Wimbledon via East Croydon.
At a sharp left turn on the approach to Sandilands, drivers are instructed to reduce speed to 12mph (20kph) to safely negotiate the curve, with a sign on the bend confirming it.
Mr Dorris was travelling in excess of 43mph (70kph), causing the inner wheels to come off the track and the tram to tip over.
Survivors described being “flung” about as if in a washing machine or a pinball machine, then a moment of silence before people began to scream and shout.
Prosecutor Jonathan Ashley-Norman KC said it was an “accident waiting to happen”.
Mr Dorris was described as having an “impeccable” past record and was seen as one of the better drivers.
The court heard of an alleged “near-miss” 10 days before the derailment in an identical location at a similar time involving another driver.
The Old Bailey jurors were not told that an inquest in 2021 concluded that the victims died as a result of an accident and were not unlawfully killed.
Mr Dorris had been excused from attending the inquest because he was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
Watch: Driver in fatal 2016 Croydon tram crash goes on trial