Rescuers were unable to save driver as car sank in marshland, court hears
RESCUERS battled in darkness to save a young drink-driver as his upturned car sank in a marsh and he fought to keep his head above water, a court has heard.
Anthony Grant, 21, had said he was alone in the car and it was only after he had been saved that police noticed an arm of a submerged body.
John Quinnan, 22, was cut from his seatbelt and taken from the wreckage, but he was found to be dead. It was thought he had drowned, but pathologists later established he had died from injuries sustained in the high-speed crash at an accident blackspot in the south of Scotland.
Grant admitted causing the death of his friend by careless driving, and while over the legal alcohol limit, on 8 June last year on the A75 Gretna to Stranraer road near Kirkcowan. He was remanded in custody to be sentenced next month.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Grant, from Newcastle, and Mr Quinnan, from nearby Cramlington, had been on holiday at a caravan park near Gatehouse of Fleet with a third friend, Ross Morrison.
They shared four bottles of wine in a bar, and returned to the caravan where Mr Morrison went to bed. Grant had a string of motoring convictions, including drink-driving, and had no licence, but he drove off in the group’s Vauxhall Vectra with Mr Quinnan in the front passenger seat.
Just before midnight, passing motorists saw the car lying on its roof in marshland down an embankment and went to help. Grant was shouting and screaming that he was drowning. He said the water was just about to cover him. The police and an ambulance were called. Asked if anyone else was in the car, he said he was just himself.
The advocate-depute, Iain McSporran, said the emergency services arrived, thinking there was only the driver. Police saw an arm submerged in water and believed it was Grant’s arm.
“He was struggling to keep his head above water. A paramedic smashed the driver’s window with a torch and cut the seatbelt to get him out of the car,” said Mr McSporran.
“Police again saw an arm and realised only then that there was someone else in the car, being otherwise completely submerged. On examining John Quinnan, they detected no pulse. Fire officers had to force open the passenger door and cut the seatbelt to remove his body. It was initially suspected that he may have drowned but this was not, in fact, the case.”
Grant had suffered only minor injuries. It was not possible to work out his alcohol count at the time of the crash, but Mr Quinnan’s was more than double the legal limit and the two men had taken roughly the same amount of wine.
The crash occurred at a “bad bend” where there had been numerous accidents. Collision investigators reported that the absolute maximum speed at which the bend could be negotiated was 76mph, and Grant’s speed was estimated at 86mph. The car had struck the kerb and become airborne, and hit a telegraph pole at the passenger side before rolling down an embankment and coming to rest on its roof in the marshland.
Mr Quinnan’s parents described him as a “helpful, happy person who would do anything for anyone.” The couple said they had been devastated by his death and they “could not enjoy themselves any more.”
A plea in mitigation by Grant’s lawyer will be given at the next hearing.
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