NEWS: Bus company fined £2.3m after overworked driver kills two people

Bus company Midland Red (South) Ltd (a subsidiary of Stagecoach Group plc), has been fined £2.3m after a driver crashed into the front of a supermarket in Coventry City Centre on 3 October 2015, killing two people.

Birmingham Crown Court heard yesterday how Kailash Chander, 77 years old at the time, had been working on average 72 hours each week in the month before the crash.

The incident happened on a Saturday afternoon when Mr Chander drove a double-decker bus into Coventry City Centre.

He lost control of the bus as he accelerated away from a stop, driving through groups of pedestrians before crashing into the front of the Sainsbury’s store.

Two people were killed: a 76-year-old pedestrian, Dora Hancox and seven year old passenger on the bus, Rowan Fitzgerald. Two other passengers suffered serious injuries.

There was no prior mechanical defect and the investigation showed that the accident was due to gross driver error, the court heard.

Andrew Thomas QC prosecuting explained on his website the facts of the case which was sentenced 27 November.

He said that Kailash Chander’s standard of driving had ‘deteriorated over a number of years’. “He had been involved in several ‘blameworthy’ collisions and had been the subject of a number of complaints. Despite his age, he was regularly working in excess of 50 hours per week,” he wrote.  

“Mr Chander and his employer were warned that he should reduce his hours because fatigue was contributing to his poor driving.”

Both Midland Red and Mr Chander ignored the warnings and his hours were increased, so that he worked on an average of 72 hours each week before the crash and he frequently worked a whole week without a day off.

There were numerous complaints from passengers that they thought his driving was unsafe. A warning from a manager that the company should consider not using Mr Chander to drive was not acted upon.

Midland Red was fined for breaching Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. “Over a period of six months, they had failed to act on warnings that their driver was unsafe and had allowed him to work excessive hours,” summarised Mr Thomas. 

Midland Red was a large company under the sentencing guidelines. His Honour Justice Farrer QC found that there had been a high risk of death or serious injury and that the company’s culpability was high.

The company generally had a responsible attitude to health and safety, but serious failings had occurred at the level of depot management. The deaths and injuries were aggravating features, as were the large numbers of people put at risk. The Judge determined that a fine of £3.5 million was appropriate, but gave one third credit for the company’s early guilty plea.

Chander, who now suffers from dementia, was also charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and two charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, however he was found unfit to stand trial on medical grounds.

He was given a two-year supervision order under the Insanity Act which means he must receive supervised care for a number of medical conditions. 

West Midlands Police added in their statement that 35-year-old member of the public, Tiel Porlock, who alerted pedestrians to the oncoming bus, ushering them out of the way and running to give help, was awarded £250 in recognition of his actions.