Bus driver facing jail over fatal crash outside Victoria station

Melissa Burr (PA Archive)
Melissa Burr (PA Archive)

A bus driver is facing jail for killing a woman who was knocked over outside London’s Victoria railway station.

Bus driver Olusofa Popoola, 60, had accidentally accelerated into the back of a stationary bus in front, shunting it forward and into pedestrian Melissa Burr.

Ms Burr, 32, died from multiple injuries and the other bus driver, Diane Mathuranayagum, suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident in Terminus Place on the morning of August 10 2021.

Popoola admitted causing Ms Burr’s death by careless driving and said he had pressed the accelerator instead of the brake by mistake.

On Wednesday, a jury cleared Popoola, of Peckham, south-east London, of the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury following a retrial at the Old Bailey.

Previously, prosecutor Robert Evans told how the fatal collision happened as Popoola queued in a line of buses behind Ms Mathuranayagum’s vehicle.

When the first bus moved off, Ms Mathuranayagum moved up to the front of the queue.

She put on the parking brake, got out of her cab and went to stand by the open door.

Ms Burr, from Rainham, Kent, was the first of three pedestrians to cross in front of the line of buses.

Mr Evans said: “The parked bus lurched forward. It hit Ms Burr, who was propelled up and forward. The people behind her jumped backwards out of the way.

“The driver of the parked bus, Ms Mathuranayagum, was thrown out of the door of the parked bus and on to the pavement.

“The driverless parked bus continued to go forward; it ran over Ms Burr, who ended up under the bus and she very sadly died as a consequence of the multiple injuries that she received.”

An off-duty police officer on the bus was thrown to the floor and suffered minor injuries, the court was told.

At the scene, Popoola said he was in the process of stopping when his “foot slipped off the brake and on to the accelerator”.

I felt a big collision out of nowhere. I think out of shock, I may have applied my accelerator more firm instead of the brake. I think I believed that I was pressing the brake

Bus driver Olusofa Popoola

In a later prepared statement, he said: “I felt a big collision out of nowhere. I think out of shock, I may have applied my accelerator more firm instead of the brake. I think I believed that I was pressing the brake.

“I think I pressed the brake eventually to bring my vehicle to a stop but the collision had already taken place.

“I was in a state of shock. I could not believe what had happened. I remained seated for around a minute. I did not think anyone was hurt, just that I had caused damage to the vehicles.”

He said he felt terrible about what had happened and added: “It is so difficult for me to explain. I do not know what happened. I just wanted to move my bus forward and next thing I know the collision happened.”

A crash investigation concluded the defendant had continued to apply the accelerator pedal – rather than a foot brake – after impact with the stationary bus before finally using the parking brake to stop.

Data from his vehicle found it was travelling at around 8mph at the point of collision and reached a peak speed moments earlier of 10mph.

Jurors were shown distressing CCTV footage of the incident in which Ms Burr was struck to assess how Popoola drove.

Mr Evans said: “He depressed the accelerator pedal with his foot, moving the electric bus forward – driving it forward – and he continued to drive it forward even after his bus had hit the bus in front.

“He then drove forward for almost the whole length of the bus in front, accelerating as he did so.

“The force of the impact from the bus driven by the defendant, into the rear of the parked bus, pushed the previously stationary bus forward and into Ms Burr, who had been crossing the bus bay ahead of it.

“The parking brake had remained applied to the front bus throughout this movement.”

There was no suggestion that Popoola, a bus driver for 20 years, had deliberately driven dangerously but the prosecution argued that his actions that day fell below the standard of a careful and competent motorist.

The jury at the Old Bailey deliberated for 11 hours to reach its verdicts.

Judge Rebecca Trowler KC adjourned sentencing until November 10 and ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared by the probation service.

She warned the defendant: “Plainly the guidelines relating to causing death by careless driving indicate a starting point of custody.”

Popoola was granted continued conditional bail until his sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey.