Passenger, 73, fell from bus and died ‘after driver failed to apply handbrake’

Bus driver Christopher Balding, 39, denies causing the death of John Childs by dangerous driving.

Sam Russell
Thursday 16 December 2021 14:54
The Arriva bus involved in the incident in which a passenger died was an automatic (Rui Vieira/PA)
The Arriva bus involved in the incident in which a passenger died was an automatic (Rui Vieira/PA)

An elderly passenger died after falling from the open door of a stopped bus when it lurched forward because the driver had failed to apply the handbrake, a court heard.

John Childs, 73, who used a walking stick, remonstrated with the 39-year-old driver, Christopher Balding, after the bus did not stop where he was expecting due to roadworks in Howard Way in Harlow Essex.

The vehicle stopped “several hundred feet further along” the road, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

Michael Shaw, prosecuting, said Mr Childs rose from his seat and appeared “not best pleased the bus had not stopped at the stop he hoped it would”.

He said the doors opened and, with Mr Childs standing in the gangway speaking to the driver, the bus “lurched” forward.

“Mr Childs, who was unsupported, falls back against the open door, topples out of the gangway and lands heavily in Howard Way,” Mr Shaw said.

The pensioner suffered a brain injury in the incident on May 3 2019 and died in hospital on May 12.

The single-decker bus, operated by Arriva was an automatic, the prosecutor said.

The handbrake wasn’t applied when this bus stopped on May 3 and therefore the driver’s foot coming off the brake, as it clearly did for some reason, caused this bus to move forwards

Prosecutor Michael Shaw

“The handbrake wasn’t applied when this bus stopped on May 3 and therefore the driver’s foot coming off the brake, as it clearly did for some reason, caused this bus to move forwards,” Mr Shaw said.

“That’s what caused Mr Childs to lose his balance and topple through the open door.”

He added that when the bus moved forward, Balding “reapplied the foot brake immediately, which caused the bus to suddenly jolt to a stop”.

Three police officers, who were on duty in a marked van nearby, gave first aid to Mr Childs within seconds.

Balding, whose girlfriend was on the bus with him to keep him company, got out of the vehicle.

One of the officers, Pc Chris Oliver, told the court that Balding “seemed very stressed and upset and wasn’t sure what had happened”.

The officer said, in answer to a question from defence barrister Matthew Bagnall, that he detected alcohol on Mr Childs’s breath.

Balding said, in a police interview read in court, that, when Mr Childs realised the bus was not going to stop at the stop he wanted, “he started saying us drivers, the company, they’re all a bunch of c****, and all this”.

He said Mr Childs told him “How am I supposed to f****** know” about the roadworks.

Balding said he had seen Mr Childs on several occasions before, “double digits”, and “never had any issues with him”.

He said he did not remember using the handbrake, and suggested his foot may have come off the brake as he turned towards Mr Childs.

Balding, of Quarry Spring, Harlow, denies causing the death of Mr Childs by dangerous driving.

The defendant admitted at an earlier hearing to causing death by careless driving.

The trial continues.

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