A bus company in the UK has been fined 2.3 million pounds for significant health and safety failings in allowing a fatigued Indian-origin driver to carry on driving that led to a crash causing the deaths of two people.
Kailash Chander, 80, had been deemed unfit to stand trial back in September for the fatal crash in the city of Coventry over three years ago due to his dementia.
The Midland Red (South) bus company had pleaded guilty last year to two offences contrary to the UK’s Health and Safety at Work Act, by allowing Chander to continue working despite warnings about his driving.
At a hearing on Tuesday, Chander was given a two-year supervision order due to his mental state and the bus company was handed down the hefty fine.
Judge Paul Farrer ruled that “the failings of the company were a significant cause” of the crash.
“A moving bus is a potential lethal piece of machinery and (Midland Red) should have been making sure their drivers were fit to drive at all times,” he said.
Chander, a former town mayor of Leamington Spa, mistook the accelerator for the brake before the crash in October 2015.
It 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 crashed into a supermarket.
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.
The judge said he made a “fatal error” and was trying to steer the bus but had lost control. The two-year supervision order includes conditions that Chander must be under the care of a social worker and a psychiatrist for the entire time.
The judge said the order will allow Chander, who was 77 at the time of the crash, to be “treated and provide assistance to his daughter who is likely to become his long-term carer”.
The bus company, part of the UK’s Stagecoach group, has also been directed to pay the prosecution’s costs of 7,214 pounds. The firm apologised to the families of those killed and injured in the incident.
“We are deeply sorry for the heartache of everyone affected, particularly the families of Rowan Fitzgerald and Dora Hancox. Safety is and always will be our first concern, and we take our responsibilities extremely seriously,” said Phil Medlicott, Managing Director of Midland Red (South) Ltd.
“We know and fully accept that there were a number of failings at our company and we bear the weight of our responsibility for this terrible tragedy. That’s why we made early guilty pleas,” he said.
Rowan’s mother, Natasha Wilson, said her son “had a heart of gold” who was the family’s “sunshine” and Hancox’s daughter, Katrina, said she felt “cheated” because she never got to say goodbye to her mother.