Bus driver killed pensioner when he tried to eat chocolate bar

A bus driver hit and killed a pensioner when he looked away from the road to pick up a chocolate bar, a court heard.

Garfield Balfour, 50, knocked over Arthur Gowrie, 88, on Walworth Road, Southwark, as he rummaged around his cab for the treat, Inner London crown court heard.

Mr Gowrie, who had a walking stick and was dragging a shopping trolley, was trying to cross the road by weaving in and out of stationary traffic.

He suffered a serious head injury after the accident the double decker  on 2 August 2019 and died two days later.

Prosecutor Wayne Cranston-Morris said: ‘Balfour had stopped the bus and grabbed a chocolate bar.

‘But he then decided to start to drive the bus when he wasn’t looking ahead of him.’

Judge Nigel Peters said: ‘So it’s chocolate, foot off the brake, tiny movement?’

Mr Cranston-Morris replied: ‘It’s not just foot off the brake, its foot on the accelerator.

‘Before the deceased stepped onto the highway, he looked right he looked left, he did not just step onto the highway.’

CCTV shown in court showed Mr Gowrie approaching the road with his shopping bags and passing in front of the bus before being struck.

‘The defendant had no hands on the steering wheel and was not looking ahead,’ Mr Cranston-Morris said.

Ms Elizabeth Lambert, defending said: ‘After he has picked up the chocolate bar the victim is in the blind spot so he could not have seen him.

‘It is clear from the video that very tragically when the pedestrian entered the road, he entered right in front of the bus.

‘This defendant is a highly experienced bus driver without prior offences.

‘This incident was a very unfortunate combination of events. Fate caused this gentleman to cross the road.

‘No driver could have expected the deceased to have crossed the road. By the time he sits back up the deceased is in his blind spot and is crossing the road in a way that many drivers would not have anticipated.’

‘Statistics have been concluded by TfL there have been nine reported injury collisions within that junction.’

Passing sentence Judge Peters said: ‘All deaths on the road are sad and are ones that in hindsight things could have been different.

‘We all know how dangerous it is as a driver or pedestrian on a busy road and statistics shows a huge number of people suffer death personal injury or accident on busy roads such as the Walworth Road where this occurred, where traffic is moving at slow speed and where pedestrians, cyclists are darting in and out of busy streets.

‘This tragedy occurred at 4pm in broad daylight. Mr Gowrie, 88 years of age, was making his way home, he has a walking stick and a shopping trolley.

‘He was waiting on the kerbside as so many people and takes a chance to cross the road when the traffic became stationary.

‘This defendant has been driving London buses since 2016 with an impeccable record.

‘No-one suggests he set off that day doing anything more than his job and doing his job properly.

‘He made the conscious decision to help himself to a chocolate bar which was on the floor.

‘And he did so by looking down away from his normal vision and picked the chocolate bar up off the floor.

‘Traffic started to move and very slowly he moved from the brake to the accelerator.

‘His hands weren’t on the steering wheel, he is concentrating on the chocolate bar as anyone would do.

‘You open a chocolate bar with two hands. He is looking down very briefly at the chocolate bar, as this was happening Mr Gowrie crosses the road.

‘Mr Gowrie was not just knocked down on the side of the bus he had made it to the front of the bus,

‘No one is saying he did anything deliberate, far from it, but sadly Mr Gowrie fell over, and fell over is such a way that due to his age he hurt his head and did not survive.’

Balfour, of Chrysell Road, Stockwell, admitted causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving was sentenced to 140 hours of unpaid work and his driving licence suspended for 12 months.