Inquiry hears how car killed rally fans died

Friday night, Duns town centre stage of 2014 Jim Clark Rally
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Friday night, Duns town centre stage of 2014 Jim Clark Rally .

The joint fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of three people at 2014’s Jim Clark Rally and a spectator at 2013’s Snowman Rally at Inverness has started hearing evidence about the Berwickshire tragedy.

A rally fan told the inquiry how he ran away from a car moments before it struck him and killed three other people.

Donald Martin, 64, told Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Tuesday that he became anxious after seeing the vehicle lose control during the rally.

The inquiry heard that the car lost control on landing after becoming airborne over a humpback bridge.

Mr Martin, a retired lecturer from Renfrewshire, recalled the moments before the collision to crown lawyer Andrew Brown.

He said: “I saw it coming over the bridge, and I started to run. The next thing I could remember was that I was lying face down in the field. I smashed all my ribs. I could hear my son say ‘stay with me’. I can remember hearing sounds – somebody beside me was receiving CPR.”

He was giving evidence at the inquiry into the deaths of Iain Provan, 64, Elizabeth Allan, 63, and Len Stern, 71.

He told Mr Brown how he and his friends had ended up standing together to see the rally at Swinton, directly opposite where a car had gone off into a field earlier that day.

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Mr Martin said he felt safer on that side and there was red safety tape marking an area for spectators.

He told the inquiry that Mr Provan was taking photographs of the rally and was standing on the wrong side of the safety tape in the moments before he was killed.

He added: “He was doing this because he wanted to get the best possible photographs.”

In the moments before the collision, Mr Martin said that another car had lost control after coming over a hump backed bridge.

When asked by Mr Brown about whether he was concerned by this, Mr Martin replied: “I was worried yeah. I just stood back a little bit further at that point.”

Mr Martin said that he started to run after the second car lost control. He suffered broken ribs and injuries to his pelvis.

Mr Martin also told the inquiry that he had a ‘bleeding’ lung and suffered cuts.

His son Andrew,27, told the inquiry that a safety car drove around the course before the competitors started to race and the people in the car stopped to speak to their group.

He added: “He asked us to move back. He asked Iain to move back over to the other side of the safety tape. Once the car drove away, Iain stood back over the tape.”

When Mr Brown asked Andrew whether he felt annoyed by what Mr Provan had done, he replied: “Yes. I was slightly annoyed that he did it. We had a slight discussion and a slight joke about it.

“He said ‘you won’t know until it hits you. That’s what stick in my mind most about what happened.”

Andrew also agreed with Mr Brown when he was asked whether he started to feel unsafe at seeing the cars go past him and he ran when he saw the car coming towards him.

He added: “I just ran. I didn’t see the car connect with anybody.”

Andrew said the car came to a stop in a field 10 to 15 metres away from the road: “I turned around and I looked at my dad. He was standing but he was holding his side.

“After speaking to one of the spectators I realised Len was dead.”

Local resident Susan Betts,68, told the inquiry that she witnessed the collision from her garden.

“There was an unmistakeable sound,” said Mrs Betts. “You knew it had hit people and there was debris.”

She said that she spoke to a man who appeared to be in shock.

Mrs Betts added: “He was obviously in shock. He was quite distressed. It was all a bit garbled and he said ‘there’s been a massive fall out.’

“I asked him what he meant by that. He said that there was a massive fall out between the two parties who organised the rally.”

The inquiry heard that Mrs Betts also heard the young man shouting: “Oh my God! Oh my God! We didn’t have enough marshals.”

Giving evidence, Mrs Betts’s husband Geoffrey,65, told the inquiry: “I saw a young marshal with his hands on his head. That was the first marshal I had seen.”