Watch: Shocking moment bus driver ploughed into pedestrians before crashing into supermarket

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

This is the horrifying moment an elderly bus driver ploughed into pedestrians outside a supermarket, leaving two people dead.

Kailash Chander, 80, drove the vehicle into the Sainsbury’s store in Coventry in October 2015 after he mistook the accelerator for the brake.

Pedestrians can be seen fleeing in terror in the clip, while one man stood and frantically waved to try and warn people of the oncoming bus.

Kailash Chander mistook the accelerator for the brake before the smash (PA)

Seven-year-old primary school pupil Rowan Fitzgerald, who was sitting at the front of the upper deck, died of a head injury, while 76-year-old pedestrian Dora Hancox died from multiple injuries after being hit by the bus and a falling lamppost.

Chander, who was 77 at the time of the crash, was ruled mentally unfit to stand trial due to post-traumatic stress disorder and frontal lobe dementia.

He was excused from attending a ‘finding-of-facts’ trial after psychiatrists said he would be unable to give evidence or instruct lawyers with regard to the crash.

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A six-day trial at Birmingham Crown Court was told Chander had been warned about his ‘erratic’ driving by bus company Midland Red after four crashes in the previous three years.

Chander, a former mayor of Leamington Spa, had worked for more than 70 hours in the week leading up to the accident, which saw him drive ‘full throttle’ for almost 82 metres.

He had also been the subject of eight warning letters triggered by a ‘spy-in-the-cab’ telematics system installed by Midland Red (South) in 2014 to monitor braking, acceleration and speeding.

A pedestrian could be seen trying to warn people as the bus swerved onto the pavement (PA)

Seven months before the fatal crash, Chander was referred to the company’s driving school, which sent an anonymous assessor to report on his driving.

The instructor said the journey was ‘uncomfortable and erratic’ – with constant heavy braking and driving which ‘would not have been good enough’ to pass an initial training driving test.

A pre-trial hearing was told Chander may have been suffering from undiagnosed dementia – without showing symptoms to colleagues – at the time of the crash.

People were filmed fleeing as the bus mounted the pavement (PA)

Jurors deliberated for around three hours on Tuesday before finding that Chander was driving dangerously when he caused the two deaths and serious injury to two other passengers, including Rowan’s eight-year-old cousin.

Jurors were not asked to return verdicts of guilty because Chander was mentally unfit to take part in the hearing. They were instead invited to rule on whether he ‘did the acts’ alleged.

Defence lawyers acting for Chander had argued his conduct was careless because it did not fall far below the standard expected of a competent driver.

The bus ploughed into pedestrians before crashing into a supermarket in Coventry (PA)

But prosecution QC Andrew Thomas told the jury: ‘In the scale of driver errors, nothing could be more obvious, and nothing could be more devastating, than putting your foot down on the throttle pedal and accelerating over a prolonged period of time when you are supposed to be braking.’

Stockport-based Midland Red (South), part of Stagecoach, pleaded guilty last year to offences contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act by permitting Chander to continue driving despite warnings about his competence and fatigue.

Chander could face a supervision order at a further hearing on November 26. Midland Red, which faces an unlimited fine, will be sentenced on the same date.

Rowan Fitzgerald and Dora Hancox were killed in the crash (PA)

A spokesman for Midland Red (South) Ltd said: ‘We have made it our continuing priority to work very closely with the authorities to help fully understand and learn detailed lessons from what has happened.

‘The court hearing has been an important part of that process.

‘We intend to comment further at the end of the case after the court has made its decision.’