Bus driver admits causing death by careless driving

A bus driver has admitted causing death by careless driving after his single-decker surged across a road and knocked down and killed a shopper.

A jury was instructed to clear Michael Gilbert, 53, of the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving as crucial evidence emerged at his trial at Teesside Crown Court.

He was behind the wheel of the Arriva number 2 service which shot out from a bus stop in Darlington, crossed a road and hit three people before crashing into a bank.

Eileen Brennan, 82, who died following the bus crash in Northgate, Darlington (Durham Police/PA)
Eileen Brennan, 82, who died following the bus crash in Northgate, Darlington (Durham Police/PA)

The collision killed Eileen Brennan, 85, and badly injured Tracy Naisbitt whose leg was crushed against a shop window in Northgate.

Mrs Naisbitt's mother Trudy Bowe "miraculously" sustained only minor injuries in the collision in July 2016.

Gilbert had pressed the accelerator instead of the brake and later claimed the bus was faulty, but mechanical examination found it was working correctly.

The prosecution claimed Gilbert had taken a safety "short cut" by holding the bus on its handbrake instead of taking it out of gear and putting it in neutral.

That constituted dangerous driving, the prosecution said.

But a driving instructor told the jury that keeping the bus in "drive" rather than neutral would only merit a fault in a test - with a fail only coming after four faults.

The scene of the bus incident in Darlington where an elderly female pedestrian died (Owen Humphreys/PA)
The scene of the bus incident in Darlington where Eileen Brennan died (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The prosecution offered no further evidence after Gilbert, of Middle St George, County Durham, admitted the lesser charge.

Judge Howard Crowson instructed the jury to accept those pleas.

The judge said: "A risk was being run that only this tragedy, it seems to me, has revealed.

"It is impossible that a man would be driving dangerously if he was adopting a policy which was widespread amongst his colleagues."

Gilbert was bailed ahead of his sentencing for causing death by careless driving, and a separate charge of careless driving in relation to Mrs Naisbitt.

He was banned from driving ahead of sentencing on April 17.

The court heard Mrs Brennan's family and Mrs Naisbitt did not want him to be jailed but wanted to hear him admit his culpability.

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