Rally deaths could have been avoided

Floral tributes laid at the site of the fatal crash during the Swinton stage of the 2014 Jim Clark Rally.
Floral tributes laid at the site of the fatal crash during the Swinton stage of the 2014 Jim Clark Rally.

System was ‘weak,

ambiguous and ultimately

inadequate says Sheriff

Sheriff Kenneth Maciver slammed the rally’s system for identifying and overseeing safe viewing spots for spectators as “weak, ambiguous and ultimately inadequate”.

In his fatal accident inquiry report, published this week, Mr Maciver added that it was down to good luck rather than good planning that the car responsible for the three deaths had been stopped from going any further, and potentially knocking over even more onlookers, by a post and hedgerow.

The three people killed were photographer Iain Provan, 64, his partner Betty Allan, 63, both of Barrhead in East Renfrewshire, and spectator Len Stern, 71, of Bearsden in East Dunbartonshire. They died of multiple injuries after rally driver David Carney lost control of his car, careered off the road and crashed into them. The report follows a joint inquiry at Edinburgh Sheriff Court into the three deaths at the 2014 Jim Clark Rally and that of spectator Joy Robson, 51, at the Snowman Rally near Inverness in 2013.

Mr Maciver ruled that there were no reasonable precautions by which Mrs Robson’s death could have been avoided, but he found that the three deaths at the Borders rally could have been averted if people had not been allowed to watch it from an unsafe vantage point.

Sheriff Maciver said: “In respect of the Jim Clark Rally 2014, I find that there was a weak, ambiguous, and ultimately inadequate verification system for checking the proper performance of the work of stage commanders or stage set-up crews in delineating and clearly identifying areas which, for safety reasons, were prohibited for spectators.”

Sheriff Maciver issued 12 recommendations for rally organisers and other authorities and suggested a further 11 matters for consideration.

These include: a safety zone or box many yards deep for open locations such as entrances; clear plans for setting up areas off limits to spectators and those plans given to marshals and crews of all safety cars; at least one safety car assigned to ensure that any such banned areas are properly marked out; rally organisers should appoint a spectator safety officer and all marshals should wear coloured vests to avoid confusion about their role; a system should be introduced for recording crashes, accidents, cars leaving the track or near misses to help them identify possible accident blackspots; and the introduction of a warning light system within rally cars to make sure they can be stopped as quickly as possible in the event of further accidents.

A spokesman for the Jim Clark Rally’s organisers said: “Those involved in the organisation of the rally have received a copy of the sheriff’s determination.

“This is quite a lengthy and detailed report which will have to be read and digested, after which senior officials will meet up to discuss it and its findings.”