A former mayor was the driver of a double-decker bus which crashed into a Sainsbury’s in Coventry, killing two people – one of them an eight-year-old boy.
Kailash Chander, 77, is said to have lost control and driven on to the pavement before hitting at least four lampposts and crashing into the city centre store last Saturday (3).
Chander, a father of two and former Labour councillor and former town mayor of Leamington Spa in Warwickshire county, had worked with Stagecoach Midlands for 42 years. He has not been arrested in connection with the crash, but is being questioned by police.
Seven-year-old Rowan Fitzgerald and Dora Hancox, who was in her 70s, died as a result of the crash last Saturday.
Chander’s family members said he was “devastated to the core” by the tragedy.
A statement issued by them said: “Being a grandfather himself, he is devastated to the core by what has happened.
“He is a very quiet man, and a caring and devoted person.
“He has strong ties with the local community and has spent most of his life helping and thinking of others.”
The relatives said they would “only ask that the privacy of the families is respected at this tragic time” and the police “are given space to complete their investigation”.
“We want to express our deepest and most sincere condolences to those involved, particularly the families who have lost their loved ones,” it concluded.
Rowan, a pupil at St Anthony’s Catholic primary school in Leamington Spa, was travelling on the top deck of the bus with his nine-year-old cousin, who has also sustained injuries. Six others including the bus driver were also injured.
A spokesperson for the primary school said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those affected by the tragedy which happened in Coventry on Saturday night.”
Hancox, of Nuneaton, was a pedestrian in Trinity Street when the bus crashed into the supermarket.
Her daughter left flowers where she died with a note reading, “To Mum. R.I.P. you did not deserve to die like this, from Trina & Family xx.”
Inspector Paul Bennett of West Midlands Police said: “The families of Rowan and Dora have suffered a devastating loss. Like people the length and breadth of Britain, we extend our deepest sympathies to them during this time.”
The bus collided with stationary cars before hitting the Sainsbury’s store. Witnesses described how the bus driver frantically honked his horn in an apparent attempt to warn people just seconds before the crash.
Shoppers watched in horror as the bus then careered for 100 metres before it mounted a kerb, hit a lamppost and smashed into the Sainsbury’s store.
“Investigations are ongoing but we are aware of a number of vital witnesses who we are yet to speak to. We know there were possibly hundreds of people at the crash scene on Saturday evening and I would urge these people to come forward as soon as possible and give statements,” Bennett added.
A spokesman from Stagecoach said: “No driver we employ is allowed behind the wheel of our buses without us being satisfied that they are fully qualified, safe and meet all necessary legal requirements.
“In this case, our driver has many years’ of experience and has also passed a mandatory annual medical.”