Confusion over ‘bus blackout’ of bin lorry driver

Harry Clarke, 58, was the driver of the council truck when it went out of control in Glasgow city centre. Picture: Robert Perry

Harry Clarke, 58, was the driver of the council truck when it went out of control in Glasgow city centre. Picture: Robert Perry

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THE FATAL accident inquiry into the Glasgow bin lorry crash has heard it is possible there was a “missed opportunity” to get an accurate account of what happened to the driver over a blackout he had while working as a bus driver years earlier.

Harry Clarke, 58, was behind the wheel of the council truck when it went out of control three days before Christmas in Glasgow city centre last year.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, were struck and killed by the lorry on 22 December.

Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, also died. The inquiry looking into the tragedy has been told witnesses reported that the driver appeared to lose consciousness at the wheel.

It has also been hearing about an earlier episode where Mr Clarke fainted while working as a driver for First Bus in 2010.

Mr Clarke attended his GP the same day as well as visiting Dr Kenneth Lyons, the medical adviser to the company, the following day on 8 April.

The inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court was shown notes made by Dr Lyons of the consultation, on which he said his recollection was based.

Dr Lyons, 61, said Mr Clarke told him he had experienced “an episode of impaired consciousness” the previous day while at work and an onlooker had told him it lasted “five to ten seconds”.

The inquiry has previously heard evidence that the episode took place while he was on a stationary bus but yesterday it was told that Mr Clarke informed his GP it happened in a work canteen.

Dr Lyons said Mr Clarke told him paramedics were called and diagnosed a “vasovagal attack”.

He said Mr Clarke indicated his GP had agreed and advised him he did not need to inform the DVLA. The doctor then carried out a physical examination – including checking his pulse rate and heart rhythm – but said there was nothing to indicate an abnormality.

Dr Lyons said he would write to Mr Clarke’s GP and also decided Mr Clarke should not drive buses in the meantime.

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC put it to Dr Lyons: “It was a missed opportunity for two doctors to get the history a lot more accurate and to both understand they had been given differing accounts?”

Dr Lyons replied: “I now recognise in retrospect and with the benefit of hindsight.”

The court was shown a letter sent to Dr Lyons from a doctor at Mr Clarke’s GP surgery saying he had been “waiting in a hot environment” when he fainted.

The letter concluded that there were no further investigations planned and stated he was fit to return as a bus driver.

The inquiry continues.

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