A 60-year-old Nigerian bus driver who killed a pedestrian in London ‘unwittingly pressed the accelerator instead of the brake’
A 60-year-old bus diver, Olisofa Popoola, killed a pedestrian when he pressed the accelerator instead of the brake and crashed into another bus outside Victoria Station in London, it has been learned the Old Bailey during his trial on Monday March 20, 2023.
Popoola was driving a 507 single-decker electric bus when he caused the fatal crash that killed 32-year-old Melissa Burr.
Jurors heard Popoola was driving his vehicle forward when it crashed into the back of another 507 bus waiting to pick up passengers outside the railway statisticsion.
Popoola, who later admitted he may have pressed the accelerator instead of the brake, continued to move forward even after his bus hit the other vehicle, the court heard.
Ms Burr was crossing the road in front of the front bus at the time of the accident and was knocked to the ground before being crushed under the vehicle.
The driver of the other 507 bus, Diana Mathuranayagam, was thrown from her vehicle and suffered a serious eye socket fracture, it is said.
Prosecutor Alexander Williams said Popoola admitted responsibility for the crash, but argued it was reckless rather than dangerous driving.
Jurors were told the accident happened around 8.25am on August 10, 2021, when Burr, from Rainham, Kent, was crossing the road with two colleagues.
Mr Williams said Victoria station was busier than usual that Tuesday as the Circle and District line was closed and commuters took the buses.
“This case concerns a collision he caused while driving a 507 double-decker bus at the bus stop outside Victoria Station,” he said.
The defendant drove his bus into the back of another 507 bus that was parked in front of his. He collided with the rear and pushed the parked bus forward so that it overturned and collided with a pedestrian crossing in front of the parked bus.
“The driver of this parked bus who was standing in front of the open door at the time of the collision was thrown onto the pavement. She suffered a serious fracture of her eye socket.
“He pressed the accelerator pedal with his foot, making the electric bus move forward, and he kept pushing it forward even after his bus hit the bus in front of him.
“He then advanced roughly the full length of the bus in front of him, accelerating at the same time, diverting this parked bus which had its own parking brake. This caused both the death of the pedestrian and serious injury to the other bus driver.”
The court heard that Popoola was the third 507 bus to arrive at the parking lot, and when the first vehicle left, Ms Mathuranayagam walked into the vacant space.
Popoola finished a phone call with his niece and decided to move his bus forward, but is accused of moving at twice the speed – around 10mph – compared to Ms Mathuranayagam’s maneuver.
CCTV captured the ensuing crash from multiple angles, showing Popoola’s feet in the driver’s cab as he pressed the accelerator and Ms Burr as she was about to cross the road before being hit.
‘As the parked bus tipped forward it hit Ms Burr who was thrown up and forward,’ Mr Williams said. “The people behind her jumped back and onto the sidewalk.
‘The parked driverless bus did not stop but continued forward, knocking over Ms Burr who ended up under the bus and sadly died from the multiple injuries she sustained.
The court heard that Popoola was accused of not pressing the brake pedal at all until his bus came to a stop thanks to the application of the parking brake.
At the scene of the crash, he told police: ‘My foot slipped off the brake and onto the accelerator and I collided with the bus in front.
In a prepared statement a few weeks later, Popoola insisted he had stepped “gently” on the accelerator.
“I felt a big collision out of nowhere,” he said. “I think after a crash I may have applied my accelerator more firmly instead of the brake. I think I thought I was pressing the brake.”
Sending his condolences to Ms Burr’s family, he added: ‘It’s so hard for me to explain. I don’t know what happened. I just wanted to get my bus moving and the next thing I know the collision happened. I’m sure I was looking ahead at the time of the collision, so it’s hard for me to explain further.
Mr Williams told the jury: “Even if the defendant unintentionally pressed the accelerator when he wanted to press the brake pedal, the error may explain why he drove the way he did, but that doesn’t mean his driving didn’t fall far short of the standard one would expect of a safe and competent driver.
Popoola, of Peckham, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving, but denies causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
The trial continues