The driver of the car involved in the crash that killed three people watching 2014’s Jim Clark Rally in the Borders has told an inquiry of his horror at seeing one of the accident victims “flying in the air”.
Irish driver David Carney hurtled into spectators at more than 80mph after losing control of his car while going over a humpback bridge at Swinton told, a fatal accident inquiry at Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard yesterday.
“Every time I close my eyes at night, I still see three people lying in the road,” said the 29-year-old, of Westport in County Mayo.
Mr Carney, also a competitor at 2013’s Jim Clark Rally, said he has since given up taking part in races.
He was giving evidence at the ongoing inquiry into the deaths of photographer Iain Provan, 64, and his partner Betty Allan, 63, both of Barrhead in East Renfrewshire, and their friend Len Stern, 71, of Bearsden, near Glasgow, at the Berwickshire rally in May 2014.
The probe is also investigating the death of Joy Robson, 51, at the Snowman Rally at Glenurquhart in the Highlands the year before.
Mr Carney, an amateur rally driver since 2008, said his Citroen DS3 car had come off the road during the rally the day before May 31’s fatal accident and hit a tree but it had been fixed by engineers, then undergone further repairs on the day of the crash.
He said that once those latter repairs had been carried out, the car “felt perfect” and he had expected to have no problems going over the bridge.
The court was shown photos of the car landing and swerving first to the left, then to the right, and Mr Carney explained: “I steered into the slide, but the car just kept coming. It seemed to just go that quick I couldn’t catch it.
“The car continued to turn round 180 degrees while sliding back off the road.”
Andrew Brown, for the crown, asked him: “Were you aware that the car was heading towards spectators?”
Mr Carney broke down as he replied: “Only when I looked after I knew the car was gone.
“I grabbed my helmet and started shouting ‘no, no, no’. I knew I had lost control at that point.
“It didn’t seem real at first. I remember seeing dust and a woman flying in the air.”
He told the inquiry he was in a state of disbelief after his car came to a halt and he got out to see if he could help the three rally fans he’d knocked over.
He said: “I went over to someone who was getting up from all fours and someone was running down to them. I said sorry. I wanted to try and help in some way, but I didn’t know how.”
Mr Carney said he “couldn’t figure out” why his car had crashed, but official reports concluded that the 81mph crash was likely to have been due to the car going too fast for the driver’s ability, not being aligned to a slight deviation to the right on landing, not landing in proper alignment or a combination of those three factors.
Mr Carney said he did not believe he had been going too fast, adding: “It seemed to be OK from the moment we left the bridge to the split second we landed, and then it just went.”
Earlier yesterday, marshal Tom Rogers said that if he had known people were standing at what would become the crash scene, he would have stopped the rally.
The 27-year-old, of Aberdeenshire, said he was marshalling at the Swinton stage of the rally when the crash happened but had been standing in a crowd of spectators so he could not see the impact.
“I can remember two cars going over the bridge at about the same time, one after another, and as the car landed, it lost control and went into the field to the right of my view,” he said.
“I saw the landing of the car as he started losing control, but I didn’t see the end position.
“The car went off the road, and immediately there was a sense of panic around the area. There were people running around everywhere. There was a car in the field. There were three or four people lying on the ground.
“It was like a war zone or something.”
The co-driver of the car, Ray Fitzpatrick, asked him why there were people in that area, and he replied ‘I didn’t know they were there,’ he recalled.
Mr Brown asked him: “You would have stopped the rally if you knew people were in that area?”
Mr Rogers replied: “I think, on the day, I would have done because it’s the difference between one media guy and six people. I didn’t realise people were in that area.”
The inquiry continues.