Image source, PA Media
Image caption, The tram Alfred Dorris was cleared of a criminal charge on Monday
The driver of a tram that crashed in Croydon in November 2016, killing seven people, has been cleared of failing to take reasonable care at work.
Alfred Dorris, 49, was charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 over the derailment, which left another 19 people seriously injured.
There were 69 passengers on the tram when it toppled over on a sharp bend.
A jury at the Old Bailey cleared him in less than two hours. Mr Dorris left the dock in tears.
Those who died were Dane Chinnery, Donald Collett, Robert Huxley, Philip Logan, Dorota Rynkiewicz, Philip Seary and Mark Smith.
The jury heard Mr Dorris was driving the tram at over 70 km/h, more than three times the limit as he approached the curve near Sandilands.
The prosecution claimed Mr Dorris, from Beckenham, south-east London, may have had a “micro-sleep” while at the controls of the tram. He denied this, saying “It just went horribly wrong for me.”
Image source, Met Police
Image caption, Dorota Rynkiewicz, Dane Chinnery, Donald Collett, Mark Smith, Phil Seary, Philip Logan and Robert Huxley were killed in the derailment
He told the trial that he had become “confused” and “disorientated” before the tram derailed but that he could not explain how it happened.
While giving evidence, Mr Dorris broke down in tears as he described his final journey andtold the victims’ families he was “deeply sorry” for the crash.
He told them: “I’m a human being and sometimes as a human being things happen to you that you are not in control of.”
Mr Dorris blamed his confusion on a combination of external factors including poor lighting and signage in the Sandilands tunnel complex, darkness and bad weather.
Image caption, The accident happened early on the morning of 9 November 2016
He told the jury he had thought he was travelling in the opposite direction, but by the time he realised his mistake, the tram was already tipping over and he was thrown from his seat, causing him to hit his head and pass out.
Mr Dorris also said he had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since the crash and had become estranged from his wife and daughter.
Survivors described being flung about as if in a washing machine or a pinball machine, then a moment of silence before people began to scream and shout.
‘He did kill people’
Speaking after the verdict Danielle Wynne, whose grandfather Philip Logan was killed in the crash, said it felt “deflating”.
“If I got into my car and I did what he did at the speed that he did, then I would go to prison.”
Ms Wynne added “I don’t believe that morning [Mr Dorris] set out to kill anyone. But he did kill people. There has to be some kind of accountability.”
In July 2021, an inquest jury concluded that the deaths were accidental and the victims were not unlawfully killed.
The case against Mr Dorris was bought by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
Transport for London (TfL) and the tram operator Tram Operations Limited (TOL) previously pleaded guilty to not taking reasonable care under health and safety laws. They will be sentenced next month.
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