Grandfather of boy killed in crash tells of horror collision
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.