THE FAMILY of a Leamington youngster killed when a bus crashed into a supermarket is calling for a change in the law.
Seven-year-old Rowan Fitzgerald was on the top deck of the bus with his cousin, grandfather and uncle when it crashed into Sainsbury’s supermarket in Coventry city centre. He died at the scene and his cousin was seriously injured.
Driver of the double decker, 80-year-old Kailash Chander suffers from dementia and was deemed unfit to stand trial at Birmingham Crown Court. Instead a trial of the facts – to establish what happened – was held.
The former Leamington mayor, who was 77 at the time, was ruled to have been driving dangerously when the bus crashed in Trinity Street on October 3 2015.
Pedestrian Dora Hancox, aged 76, was hit by the bus as it careered towards the supermarket, she also died at the scene.
Mr Chander had retired from bus driving at 65 but was taken on as a casual driver.
But he had worked an average of 75 hours a week in the three weeks leading to the tragic crash.
He hit the accelerator instead of the brake which sent the double decker careering into the back of another bus and into the shop.
Bus operator Stagecoach Midlands was charged with health and safety offences, including failure to ensure safety of the public and employees in allowing Mr Chander to work so many hours despite warnings about his driving.
The firm pleaded guilty to the offences at an earlier hearing, and will be sentenced on November 26.
The family of St Anthony’s Catholic School pupil Rowan want a cap on the age of drivers and the hours they can work.
A family spokesman said: “It is clear both Chander and the management of Stagecoach Midlands are both fully responsible.
“For three years we have wanted answers to why this happened and to see justice for both Rowan and for Dora Hancox.”
And the family is now calling for change so ‘something positive’ can come from the deaths.
“The court findings give us no satisfaction, no sentence would ever stop the hurt that we feel for the loss of Rowan. However, we have real concerns the deaths of Rowan and Dora will not be the last if laws are not reassessed and changed.
“The hours worked by Chander are legal. A 77-year-old carrying up to 70 people on a double decker bus is allowed to do ridiculous hours when suffering the early stages of dementia.
“We don’t want the reasons why Rowan and Dora died to be forgotten, we want to see something positive come from this and we feel this will only come from a change in law on bus drivers’ age and hours of work. This would prevent anyone having to go through what we have gone through over the last three years.
“We will be talking to our MP and asking for this to be addressed for changes in the law.”
And MP Matt Western says he will take their appeal to Parliament.
He said: “The EU Working Time Directive is absolutely clear that since 2005 the acceptable and permissible level for anyone to work is 56 hours a week and a maximum of 90 hours over any two week period.
“We are told that the driver in this case was allowed to operate a bus for 75 hours per week for 3 weeks.
“I will be meeting with the family soon to fully understand what can be done to ensure this never happens again. I will then be pressing for changes through Parliament.”
A spokesman for Stagecoach Midlands said the ‘terrible events’ would never be forgotten by the company.
He added: “We are deeply sorry for the heartache of those affected, particularly the families of Rowan Fitzgerald and Dora Hancox.
“We have made it our continuing priority to work very closely with the authorities to help fully understand and learn detailed lessons from what has happened. The court hearing has been an important part of that process. We intend to comment further at the end of the case after the court has made its decision.”