Bus driver who caused death of 73-year-old passenger avoids jail

·3-min read
John Childs, 73, who died nine days after falling from a bus in Harlow, Essex on May 3, 2019, following a row with bus driver Christopher Balding, 39, of Harlow, who has been convicted of causing death by careless driving.  See SWNS story SWCAbus.  December 20, 2021.
John Childs, 73, who died nine days after falling from a bus in Harlow, Essex, following a row with bus driver Christopher Balding (SWNS)

A bus driver who caused the death of a passenger has avoided jail.

Pensioner John Childs lost his balance and fell through the open door after driver Christopher Balding failed to apply the handbrake and the bus lurched forward.

The pensioner suffered a brain injury in the incident in May 2019 and died in hospital more than a week later.

Balding had previous admitted causing the death by careless driving.

At a sentencing hearing on Friday, Balding was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving and handed an 18-month community order with conditions and given six points on his licence.

During Balding's trial the court heard that Childs, who needed a walking stick to stay mobile, remonstrated with Balding when the bus did not stop where he was expecting due to roadworks in Harlow, Essex.

The vehicle stopped “several hundred feet further along” the road, said Michael Shaw, prosecuting.

He said that Childs rose from his seat and appeared “not best pleased the bus had not stopped at the stop he hoped it would”.

When the doors opened, with Childs standing in the gangway speaking to the driver, the bus “lurched” forward.

My Childs, who was unsupported, fell back against the open door, toppled out of the gangway and landed heavily on the street below.

The pensioner suffered a brain injury in the incident on 3 May 2019 and died nine days later.

The single-decker bus, operated by Arriva, was an automatic, the prosecutor said. “The handbrake wasn’t applied when this bus stopped and therefore the driver’s foot coming off the brake, as it clearly did for some reason, caused this bus to move forwards.

“That’s what caused Mr Childs to lose his balance and topple through the open door.”

He added that when the bus moved forward, Balding “reapplied the foot brake immediately, which caused the bus to suddenly jolt to a stop”.

An Arriva bus in Derby. Bus and rail firm Arriva agreed to a 1.59 billion takeover by German operator Deutsche Bahn to create a new European transport giant.   (Photo by Rui Vieira/PA Images via Getty Images)
Balding had stopped his Arriva bus but not applied the handbrake (Rui Vieira/PA Images via Getty Images)

Three police officers, who were on duty in a marked van nearby, administered first aid on Childs within seconds.

Balding, whose girlfriend was on the bus with him to keep him company, got out of the vehicle.

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One of the officers, PC Chris Oliver, told the court that Balding “seemed very stressed and upset and wasn’t sure what had happened”.

The officer said, in answer to a question from defence barrister Matthew Bagnall, that he detected alcohol on Childs’ breath.

In a police interview read in court Balding recounted that when Childs realised the bus was not going to stop where he wanted, “he started saying us drivers, the company, they’re all a bunch of c****, and all this”.

He said Childs told him “How am I supposed to f**ing know” about the roadworks.

Balding said he had seen Childs on several occasions before, “double digits”, and “never had any issues with him”.

He said he did not remember using the handbrake, and suggested his foot may have come off the brake as he turned towards Childs.

Balding, of Quarry Spring, Harlow, was acquitted by a jury of causing the death of Childs by dangerous driving. He had admitted causing death by careless driving at an earlier hearing.

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