Bus driver ‘pressed accelerator instead of brake’ and killed pedestrian in Victoria Station crash

Bus driver Olisofa Popoola (centre) is accused of death by dangerous driving in a crash at Victoria Station (ES/Kirk)
Bus driver Olisofa Popoola (centre) is accused of death by dangerous driving in a crash at Victoria Station (ES/Kirk)

A London bus driver killed a pedestrian when he pressed the accelerator instead of the brake and crashed into another bus outside Victoria Station, the Old Bailey heard.

Olisofa Popoola, 60, was at the wheel of an electric 507 single decker bus when he caused the fatal crash which killed 32-year-old Melissa Burr.

Jurors heard Popoola was moving his vehicle forward when he crashed into the back of another 507 bus which was waiting to collect passengers outside the railway station.

Popoola, who later accepted he may have hit the accelerator instead of the brake, continued to drive 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 crash, and was knocked down to the ground before being crushed under the vehicle.

The driver of the other 507 bus, Diana Mathuranayagam, was flung from her vehicle and suffered a badly fractured eye socket, it is said.

Prosecutor Alexander Williams said Popoola has admitted responsibility for the crash but argues it was careless rather than dangerous driving.

Jurors heard the crash happened at around 8.25am on 10 August 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 had taken to the buses.

“This case concerns a collision that he caused while driving a single decker 507 bus at the bus stand outside Victoria railway station”, he said.

Melissa Burr (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Archive)
Melissa Burr (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Archive)

“The defendant drove his bus into the back of another 507 bus which was parked in front of his. He collided with its rear and pushed the parked bus forward so it ran over and collided with a pedestrian who was crossing in front of the parked bus.

“The driver of that parked bus who was standing at the open door at the time of the collision was thrown to the pavment. She suffered a badly fractured eye socket.

“He pressed the accelerator pedal with his foot, moving the electric bus forward, and he continued to drive it forward even after his bus had hit the bus in front.

“He then drove forward for pretty much the whole length of the bus in front, accelerating as he did so, shunting that parked bus which had its own parking brake on.

“It caused both the pedestrian’s death and serious injury to the other bus driver.”

The court heard Popoola was the third 507 bus to arrive at the parking bay, and when the first vehicle departed Ms Mathuranayagam moved forward into the vacant space.

Popoola finished a phone call to his niece and decided to move his bus forward, but is accused of moving at twice the speed – around 10mph – compared with Ms Mathuranayagam’s manoeuvre.

CCTV captured the ensuing crash from mutiple angles, showing Popoola’s feet in the driver’s cab as he pressed the accelerator and Ms Burr as she went to cross the road before being struck.

“When the parked bus lurched forward, it hit Ms Burr who was propelled up and forward”, said Mr Williams. “The people behind her jumped backwards out of the way. Driver Ms Mathuranayagam was thrown out of the door of the parked bus and onto the pavement.

“The driverless parked bus did not stop but continued to go forward, running over Ms Burr who ended up under the bus, and very sadly died as a consequence of the multiple injuries she received.”

The court heard Popoola is accused of not pressing the brake pedal at all until his bus had stopped thanks to him applying the parking brake.

At the scene of the crash, he told police: “My foot slipped off the brake and onto the accelerator and I have collided with the bus in front.”

In a prepared statement a few weeks later, Popoola insisted he pressed the accelerator “gently”.

“I felt a big collision out of nowhere”, he said. “I think out of a shock, I may have applied my accelerator more firm instead of the brake.

“I think I believed that I was pressing the brake.”

Passing on his condolences to Ms Burr’s family, he 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.

“I am sure that I was looking forwards at the point of collision so it is difficult for me to explain any further.”

Mr Williams told the jury: “Even if the defendant unintentionally pressed the accelerator when he mean to press the brake pedal, the mistake may explain why it is he drove in the way he did but it doesn’t mean his driving didn’t fall far below the standard one would expect of a careful and competent driver.”

Popoola, from Peckham, has 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.