Published: 16:45, 04 January 2021
| Updated: 16:56, 04 January 2021
A bereaved daughter has urged people to stay home and save lives after losing her father to Covid-19.
Peter Hart, who was a bus driver for Arriva in Maidstone, was admitted to hospital with the coronavirus on December 14 and died little more than two weeks later.
News of the 64-year-old's death has led to tributes from family, colleagues and his employer for a much-loved figure who was well known in the county town after 15 years on the buses.
Mr Hart's daughter Louise Pepper said: "He was well loved, and I think the passengers loved him, he was quite a character.
"He liked a bit of a joke, but he really did love his job as well, he always said he went to work for the people that he worked with, and I think that's what he loved most about his job, the people that he worked with and the people that he'd meet every day.
"A few years ago an elderly lady got on to his bus, she was going the wrong direction, so he took her across the road himself, took her to the correct bus stop, and when he got back on the bus all the passengers clapped him. I was really proud of him for that, it's just such a nice thing to do, not everybody would do that."
Mr Hart, who lived in Maidstone with his partner Linda, was due to retire next year and had worked extra shifts during the pandemic as he sought to prepare financially for life after work.
A father of three and grandfather of seven, he had hoped for the chance to spend more time on the golf course.
His most regular route was driving the number 5 bus between Hawkhurst to Maidstone, and passengers were quick to leave many messages of condolence on a Facebook group dedicated to that bus route.
Ms Pepper, who was able to be with her father when he died at Maidstone Hospital on December 29, is now urging people to take the virus seriously and do all they can to prevent further families losing loved ones.
"He was worried about Covid, as everybody is, he was concious of it," she said.
"It proves the point of people being careful, because he was careful but it obviously wasn't enough, Covid found a way to reach him however that may be.
"That's why the message of staying at home really does count, because if you are staying at home you are not out there, you are not spreading an infection that you probably don't know that you have, hence the message from the Government to stay at home and save lives.
"I didn't think it would be somebody in my family, but until you are on the wards and you see the horrific nature of the disease and the way it takes somebody so quickly, you really don't realise until you see it for yourself.
"You really are grateful and you can see the risk that every single doctor, every nurse, basically anybody in that hospital, the risk that they put themselves through every single day in dealing with any Covid patients. We are so grateful that they are putting their own lives at risk to help others."
Colleagues at the Maidstone depot where Mr Hart worked have begun fundraising for a memorial in his honour, raising almost £3,000 so far. Ms Pepper says his family is "proud, honoured and touched" that they would wish to remember him in this way.
Colleague Chris Marchant, a union rep at the bus company, said: "Peter was a much loved member of the Maidstone depot, which has been shown by the current response and contributions on his GoFundMe page.
"Peter worked tirelessly from the initial lockdown back in March. He was a constant campaigner for safety measures to protect his fellow drivers from day one, constantly pushing for the best possible protection for himself and his colleagues against this awful disease.
"The depot is still in shock over his untimely passing, and he will live on in the memory of us all at Arriva Maidstone."
Darren Bow, general manager at Arriva Maidstone and Swale, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Peter's family and friends at this terrible time.
"Peter worked for Arriva for 15 years and his sad passing has been a big shock to the team at our Maidstone depot. Peter made many friends over this period and will be deeply missed by all who knew and worked with him."