Bus driver insists he checked blind spot before crash

22/11/11    CS''Peter Levesque bus driver up for death by careless driving at Portsmouth Crown Court''(114155-1)
22/11/11 CS''Peter Levesque bus driver up for death by careless driving at Portsmouth Crown Court''(114155-1)
Swansea City Centre. Credit: Wiki Commons (Labelled for reuse)

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A BUS driver who crashed into a cyclist and killed her has insisted he checked his blind spot seconds before the collision.

But a visibly upset Peter Levesque admitted that he may have had a lapse in concentration.

The 54-year-old was driving a single-decker Stagecoach bus in Pier Road, Southsea, when it hit Judith Hitchings on a roundabout near Clarence Pier.

Ms Hitchings, who was not wearing a helmet at the time, was knocked from her bike and died hours later as a result of her head injuries.

Levesque, who is accused of causing her death by careless driving, told a jury at Portsmouth Crown Court about the lead-up to the crash.

He said: ‘The weather was clear, dry. It was a nice day.

‘I’m looking ahead, I’m looking to the sides of the roads for people stepping out from cars, I’m looking for anything that may be dangerous that may cause me to react suddenly, checking the mirrors left and right.

‘I’m looking at the roundabout, at the same time looking right and left as I’m going down the road, constantly scanning.

‘I checked my right-hand side mirror, I looked round at the blind spot, I did check the blind spot both sides. I slowed down.

‘I did not see her. There was no sign of anybody.

‘As I looked forward to look into the right-hand side again Ms Hitchings was right in front of me. I hit the brakes, stopped, Ms Hitchings was on the floor.

‘It wasn’t a hard hit.’

He said he went to check if she was all right.

‘People had got off the bus and were doing what they could to help her,’ he said.

‘I had to call control to inform them straight away about what had happened.’

Levesque struggled to hold back tears when Paul Walker, defending, asked how he felt when he was interviewed by police.

He replied: ‘I felt as bad as I did at the time of the accident. I am still not over it now. I am still shaken up by it all.’

The court has heard Levesque was running late on the day of the crash on July 17 last year because there had been a problem with the bus he was supposed to take out.

But he said he was told by his boss to take a standard shortcut and said he was not hurrying to make up time.

The jury has seen CCTV that shows he approached the roundabout at 18mph and slowed down to 14mph.

After the crash Levesque told police it had been a momentary lapse.

Asked by Daniel Sawyer, prosecuting, if he accepted it was a momentary lapse he said: ‘It’s possible.’

When asked if it was a lapse in concentration or judgment he replied: ‘Possibly a lapse in concentration.’

Asked if he had failed to check his blind spot adequately, he said: ‘Possibly.’

Ms Hitchings, 55, from Brackley in Northamptonshire, who was staying in Eastern Parade, Southsea at the time, was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital after the crash.

Levesque, of Rothwell Close, Paulsgrove, Portsmouth, denies one count of causing death by careless driving.