Coventry & Warwickshire

Coventry supermarket death crash bus firm fined £2.3m

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Media captionThe bus ploughed into a Coventry branch of Sainsbury's in October 2015

A bus company has been fined £2.3m after ignoring warnings about an "erratic" driver who crashed into a supermarket, killing two people.

Midland Red (South) Ltd admitted health and safety breaches after Kailash Chander, then aged 77, smashed into a Sainsbury's in Coventry in 2015.

Mr Chander had been driving dangerously when he mistook the accelerator for the brake, a fact finding trial concluded.

The former mayor, now 80, was deemed unfit to stand trial due to dementia.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Kailash Chander, a former mayor of Leamington Spa, was diagnosed with dementia and deemed unfit to plead or stand trial

Midland Red (South) Ltd was sentenced alongside Mr Chander, who received a two-year medical supervision order, after a two-day hearing at Birmingham Crown Court.

Mr Chander had been warned about his "erratic" driving by the company after four crashes in three years, the trial of facts found in September.

The bus company, which is part of Stagecoach group, admitted allowing Mr Chander to work more than 70-hours a week.

It also admitted allowing him to continue working despite warnings about his driving.

Judge Paul Farrer said "the failings of the company were a significant cause" of the crash.

Warnings about Mr Chander were "not enforced, and almost immediately ignored," he said.

Phil Medlicott, managing director of Midland Red (South) Ltd said the company was "deeply sorry" and "bears the weight of our responsibility for this tragedy".

"We deeply regret the opportunities that were missed to act decisively on emerging warning signs," he said.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Rowan Fitzgerald attended St Anthony's Catholic Primary School in Leamington Spa

Seven-year-old Rowan Fitzgerald was riding on the top deck and died of a head injury when the bus crashed on Trinity Street on 3 October 2015.

Rowan's mother, Natasha Wilson, said her son "had a heart of gold - he was our sunshine on hard days".

Pedestrian Dora Hancox, 76, died after being struck by the bus and a falling lamppost.

Her daughter Katrina said she felt "cheated as I never got to say goodbye to her".

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Dora Hancox, from Nuneaton, was struck by the bus and a falling lamppost

Mr Chander's barrister Robert Smith told the court the former Leamington Spa mayor was "traumatised" by the crash and now required full-time care.

An expert told the court he may have been suffering from undiagnosed dementia at the time of the crash.

The company has "made several key changes", Mr Medlicott said, including stronger controls on working hours and more medical testing for drivers.

"We cannot turn back the clock in this case, but we have done everything possible to learn lessons," he said.

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Media captionCCTV captures Coventry bus crash which killed two people

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