London: An 80-year-old Indian-origin bus driver, suffering from dementia, was Tuesday found by a UK court to have caused the deaths of two people with his dangerous driving in the city of Coventry nearly three years ago.
Kailash Chander was deemed unfit to stand trial for the fatal crash due to his mental state and the jury at a “trial of facts” hearing at Birmingham Crown Court was directed to only determine whether Chander “did the acts”.
Chander, a former town mayor of Leamington Spa, mistook the accelerator for the brake before the fatal smash, which caused the death of seven-year-old schoolboy Rowan Fitzgerald, who was sitting at the front of the upper deck of the bus and died of a head injury.
A 76-year-old pedestrian, Dora Hancox, died from multiple injuries after being hit by the double-decker bus and a falling lamppost when it crash into a supermarket in October 2015.
Chander had been warned about his “erratic” driving after four crashes in the previous three years, the court was told. It was said he had struggled to punch a ticket seconds before the fatal crash because his hands were shaking.
Judge Paul Farrer, summing up the case at the hearing, said one witness had described the movement of Chander’s double-decker bus as appearing to have “no driver with the accelerator jammed on”.
The court heard that Chander had experienced suicidal thoughts, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and was “very preoccupied” by the crash. The 80-year-old may face a supervision order at a further hearing in November.
Bus company Midland Red South, which has pleaded guilty to health and safety law breaches, faces an unlimited fine and will also be sentenced later.
Lawyers for Chander, who was 77 at the time of the crash, argued he was driving carelessly and should not be found guilty of dangerous driving.
Before the jury handed down their verdict, the judge told the panel: “You will obviously feel sympathy for the very real tragedy that has befallen Mrs Hancox and her family and Rowan and his family.
“But in judging this case and in deciding whether the prosecution have proved the act of dangerous driving, you have to put emotion to one side. You are here to judge the evidence objectively and dispassionately.”
A spokesperson for the bus company said: “We are deeply sorry for the heartache of those affected, particularly the families of Rowan Fitzgerald and Dora Hancox.”
In a statement, Rowan’s family said “no sentence would ever stop the hurt that we feel” for his loss and called for a change in the law preventing people driving buses in old age.