Grand­fa­ther of boy killed in crash tells of hor­ror col­li­sion

Coventry Telegraph - - NEWS - By BEN EC­CLE­STON Crime Re­porter­cle­ston@reach­

THE grand­fa­ther of the school­boy killed in the Sains­bury’s bus crash was un­able to get to him in time be­fore the hor­rific col­li­sion.

Af­ter be­ing thrown to the floor of the bus, John Wil­son made his way to where his two young grand­chil­dren were only to be told by one that the other was dead.

Rowan Fitzger­ald was one of two peo­ple killed when a dou­ble decker bus left the road in Hales Street and mounted the pave­ment and a grass verge be­fore smash­ing in to the side of the su­per­mar­ket in Trin­ity Street, Coven­try.

The eight-year-old had been trav­el­ling home af­ter go­ing to watch Coven­try City at the Ri­coh Arena with his fam­ily.

He was sit­ting in the front seats on the top deck with his cousin, Paige Wil­son, when the hor­rific col­li­sion hap­pened nearly three years ago.

The crash led to two charges of caus­ing death by dan­ger­ous driv­ing be­ing brought against the bus driver, Kailash Chan­der, for the deaths of Rowan, from Leam­ing­ton, and 76-year-old Dora Han­cox, from Nuneaton.

Mrs Han­cox was struck by the bus just mo­ments be­fore it struck the store on the even­ing of Satur­day Oc­to­ber 3, 2015.

Chan­der, 80, has been deemed un­fit to stand trial and a ‘find­ing of facts’ trial is now tak­ing place at Birm­ing­ham Crown Court.

He was also charged with two counts of caus­ing se­ri­ous in­jury by dan­ger­ous driv­ing.

On the sec­ond day of the trial, the jury heard the state­ment of John Wil­son, the grand­fa­ther of Rowan and Paige.

He said that on Oc­to­ber 3, 2015, he, his son and Rowan and Paige trav­elled from Leam­ing­ton to Coven­try by bus to at­tend a Coven­try City foot­ball match that day at the Ri­coh Arena.

Mr Wil­son said they were “all happy” and they vis­ited McDon­ald’s in the city cen­tre be­fore get­ting an­other bus to the Ri­coh Arena.

The state­ment was read out by pros­e­cu­tor An­drew Thomas, and stated: “Rowan was very ex­cited as he was go­ing to be get­ting a free gift for be­ing a JSB (Ju­nior Sky Blue) mem­ber.”

Once the game was over, they all trav­elled back to Coven­try city cen­tre to get the bus home to Leam­ing­ton.

Mr Wil­son said they “just missed” the no.17 bus to Leam­ing­ton and in­stead waited for the X18.

When the bus even­tu­ally ar­rived, Mr Wil­son said they all got on and “Rowan and Paige went up­stairs”.

He stated: “I fol­lowed the kids up­stairs. I heard the en­gine start up.”

Mr Wil­son said that Rowan and Paige were sat at the front of the bus on the up­per deck, his son was a few seats back and he went to move to­wards the back and told his son to “keep an eye” on the chil­dren.

“I was about to sit down when [the bus] hit a car,” he said. “I said ‘what the f*** is go­ing on’ - I was think­ing about the kids.”

Mr Wil­son added: “All of a sudden the bus has shot for­ward. It was trav­el­ling at about 50 or 60.

“I started to run to­wards my grand­kids. He then hit the lamp­post and I was knocked off bal­ance.

“When I got to them the first thing Paige said was ‘Rowan is dead, grandad.’

“She then said ‘I’m go­ing to die as well grandad.’ I didn’t be­lieve her and looked un­der the seats to see if there was any­thing I could do.

“I hoped he wasn’t dead and could see the po­si­tion he was in and that he had tried to move.”

Mr Wil­son said in his state­ment that he “tried to lift the win­dow a bit off her (Paige) but I thought ‘don’t do that’ as I could make the in­juries worse.

“I sat with her. It seemed like ages.

“Two guys came on to the bus. They were say­ing ‘get off the bus.’ I said ‘no I’m f ****** stay­ing here mate.’

“When emer­gency ser­vices ar­rived that’s when I left them.”

Once off the bus, Mr Wil­son saw the bus driver and said he “wanted to punch his head in and they pulled me off him and told me to stand over the other side”. He said he stood there for around 90 min­utes and once Paige was freed from the bus she was taken to Birm­ing­ham’s Chil­dren Hospi­tal for treat­ment.

Speak­ing of the bus’ move­ments be­fore hit­ting Sains­bury’s, Mr Wil­son said in his state­ment: “When the bus pulled out it was as if the driver was an­gry.

“I could feel the bus ac­cel­er­at­ing but not brak­ing or slow­ing down.”

The jury also heard state­ments from two friends who were also sat at the front of the up­per deck of the bus that day.

Ali­son Hu was on the X18 ser­vice with Alek­sei Rodin - known as Alex and said that as soon as the bus left the stop in Hales Street, she “felt we were go­ing too fast. It was the fastest I’ve been while on a bus.

“We hit the back corner of an­other bus. This made a loud bang.”

The stu­dent said she was thrown to the floor mo­ments be­fore the bus hit the su­per­mar­ket.

“Then I could just hear sounds,” she said. “Sec­onds later the bus stopped with a big bang.

“I heard some­one shout ‘get off the bus.’ There were a lot of peo­ple about.”

Once off the bus, Miss Hu said she “just started to cry”.

The state­ment of Mr Rodin - also read out by pros­e­cu­tor Mr Thomas said: “Ali­son had never been on a dou­ble decker so wanted to sit up­stairs. We sat on the front seats.

“As the bus ac­cel­er­ated quickly the corner where we were sit­ting hit the bus ahead of us.

“Ali­son fell from her seat in to the aisle. I started stand­ing up but the bus didn’t stop.

“I re­mem­ber hit­ting traf­fic lights and street lights.”

Mr Rodin said he fell on top of Miss Hu and the “next thing I re­mem­ber is see­ing the canopy com­ing to­wards me and think­ing I can’t run away or get away”.

He said: “The bus hit the canopy with a hor­rific force and the noise was in­cred­i­bly loud. I was pinned to my seat. I re­alised I was badly in­jured. I pulled at my coat to re­lease my­self and went to as­sist Ali­son who was scream­ing.”

He said he and Miss Hu were able to get down the stairs and then off the bus. He was even­tu­ally taken to Univer­sity Hospi­tal in Coven­try with in­juries in­clud­ing a bro­ken col­lar bone, bro­ken shoul­der and dam­age to his pelvis.

Also giv­ing ev­i­dence was the Stage­coach con­troller who was on duty at the time of the crash.

Thomas Grant told the court that he did not see Chan­der at the de­pot in Leam­ing­ton at all that day, but did speak to him on the phone when the bus Chan­der was tak­ing over dur­ing his shift ar­rived at the ex­change point at around 5.20pm.

“He rang up to say it was 15 min­utes late and asked me as con­troller what he should do,” said Mr Grant.

The con­troller said they talked about how to get the bus back on its cor­rect timetable.

“Did he tell you any­thing else?” asked Mr Thomas. “No, just what to do,” replied Mr Grant.

“Any form of com­plaint?” “No.”

Mr Grant said that Chan­der just sounded his “nor­mal self”.

The trial con­tin­ues.

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