News ‘I told my wife to hold on, the bus was not stop­ping’

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - When on the point of hit­ting the lamp­post I stared scream­ing to ev­ery­one to run.

PAS­SEN­GERS and wit­ne­ses have told of their ter­ror as a bus crashed in the city cen­tre, killing two peo­ple.

The bus driver, who al­legedly caused the crash by driv­ing dan­ger­ously told po­lice the brakes were not work­ing.

Kailash Chan­der claimed that he pressed the brakes on the dou­ble decker bus but noth­ing hap­pened as it ac­cel­er­ated to­wards, and then crashed in to, the Sains­bury’s store in Trin­ity Street.

He also told de­tec­tives that in his ef­forts to stop the bus he switched the en­gine off, but again to no avail.

Chan­der, 80, has been charged with caus­ing the deaths of seven-year-old Rowan Fitzger­ald and 76-year-old Dora Han­cox by dan­ger­ous driv­ing in the col­li­sion on Oc­to­ber 3, 2015.

He is also ac­cused of caus­ing se­ri­ous in­jury to two other peo­ple by dan­ger­ous driv­ing.

Hav­ing been deemed un­fit to stand trial, a ‘find­ing of facts’ trial is taking place at Birm­ing­ham Crown Court.

And in court yes­ter­day, pros­e­cu­tor An­drew Thomas read out state­ments made by ter­ri­fied pas­sen­gers on the bus.

One pas­sen­ger, who was hold­ing his young son while on the bus, said: “It seemed the driver had lost con­trol. I told my wife to hold on as I was scared the bus was go­ing to hit some­thing.

“My daugh­ter and wife were scared as they didn’t know what was go­ing to hap­pen.

“The bus was not stop­ping and hit a pole at some point and made a loud noise.

“Peo­ple on the pave­ment were cry­ing and scream­ing.”

An­other eye­wit­ness told po­lice that she saw an el­derly lady ly­ing in the road near Sains­bury’s fol­low­ing the in­ci­dent.

“I started to shout and ask for help,” the woman said in her state­ment.

She said she was joined by an off-duty medic who “tried to find a pulse but couldn’t”, be­fore fire­fight­ers joined him to carry out CPR on the lady.

The court also heard the state­ment of Tile Port­lock who had been head­ing to Sains­bury’s on Oc­to­ber 3, 2015, and had stopped out­side the smoke a cig­a­rette when the in­ci­dent hap­pened.

“I heard a loud bang and said ‘what the f*** was that?,’” he said. “I could see a bus com­ing up the road. I think it hit a car or taxi and this caused it to change di­rec­tion. “The bus started to come to­wards me and was gath­er­ing speed. When on the point of hit­ting a lamp­post op­po­site Sains­bury’s I started scream­ing to ev­ery­one to run.” Mr Port­lock said he was “show­ered” with glass from the bus win­dows as they smashed on im­pact with the su­per­mar­ket. He punched win­dows of the bus through in a bid to help those inside and then learned that there were chil­dren “trapped up­stairs”. Mr Port­lock jumped through the emer­gency exit of the bus, the jury heard, be­fore he tried to get up the stairs but was un­able to get to the top deck due to the canopy of the store be­ing inside the bus. He added in his state­ment: “I could see a man ly­ing or sit­ting on the floor and hold­ing a child’s hand.” Mr Port­lock es­ti­mated that the bus was driv­ing at “30 to 40 mph”. Yes­ter­day, the jury also heard what was said in in­ter­views with the po­lice, Chan­der telling of­fi­cers that af­ter be­ing at the bus stop in Hales Street, he checked his mir­rors be­fore in­di­cat­ing, ready to pull off, and then re­leased the brake. He told po­lice: “I passed the bus in front of me and then feel the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

“The bus is run­ning out of con­trol. I tried to put the foot­brake on and it didn’t work.” He said that he went over the pave­ment and two flag­poles – “I then thought ‘oh my god.’ I couldn’t turn right as some­thing was wrong with the steer­ing,” said Chan­der.

Af­ter be­ing ques­tioned by de­tec­tives, Chan­der said that dur­ing the in­ci­dent the bus was “revving up fast”, even af­ter he took his foot off the ac­cel­er­a­tor, and he “switched the en­gine off as some­thing was go­ing wrong”.

A po­lice of­fi­cer asked: “So you pulled off slowly and put your foot on the ac­cel­er­a­tor and then took it off and it was still revving?”

Chan­der agreed and added: “It goes very fast all of a sud­den.”

Fol­low­ing a break, Chan­der re­turned for the in­ter­view to con­tinue but said he couldn’t re­mem­ber what he had pre­vi­ously said to of­fi­cers and the de­ci­sion was made, on health grounds, to ter­mi­nate the in­ter­view and con­tinue an­other day. How­ever, a med­i­cal assess­ment of Chan­der was car­ried out which deemed him “not med­i­cally fit for in­ter­view” and no more in­ter­views took place.

Mr Thomas also told the jury about the post-mortem ex­am­i­na­tions car­ried out on the two vic­tims.

While read­ing out a set of agreed facts, Mr Thomas stated that Dora Han­cox, from Nuneaton, had suf­fered a large num­ber of in­juries, in­clud­ing “crush in­juries”, and the cause of death was given as mul­ti­ple in­juries.

Leam­ing­ton school­boy Rowan Fitzger­ald had also suf­fered mul­ti­ple crush in­juries and his cause of death was given as blunt head in­juries.

In the wit­ness box to­day was PC An­drew Salt, a mem­ber of West Mid­lands Po­lice’s re­gional col­li­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tion unit.

He stated that anal­y­sis of CCTV footage from the crash site showed that the bus “re­bounded” back from the Sains­bury’s store about one me­tre fol­low­ing the ini­tial im­pact, be­fore mov­ing for­ward again up to the store and then com­ing to a halt.

PC Salt said this meant “the driver was still press­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tor on ini­tial im­pact and again when it re­bounded and then en­gaged with the build­ing for a sec­ond time”.

The col­li­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tor said his anal­y­sis led him to a de­ci­sion that the bus was driv­ing at around 20mph in Hales Street and Trin­ity Street and hit the su­per­mar­ket at that speed.

PC Salt also stated that he con­cluded that as no brake lights were seen on the bus be­fore it pulled off, the bus had re­mained in the drive gear when col­lect­ing pas­sen­gers in Hales Street.

This is be­cause if the bus had been in neu­tral when parked, the brake has to be pressed - caus­ing the brake lights to come on – be­fore it can be placed back in to drive.

Mr Thomas said that dur­ing his po­lice in­ter­view, Chan­der had “claimed he had ap­plied the park­ing brake when the bus stopped. In your opin­ion can that be cor­rect?” “No,” replied PC Salt. Mr Thomas said: “Mr Chan­der claimed he tried to turn the en­gine off to dis­en­gage power. Any ev­i­dence of that taking place?” “No,” replied the of­fi­cer. The pros­e­cu­tor asked: “Who or what caused this bus to travel on this jour­ney?”

PC Salt said: “Kailash Chan­der alone.”

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