A FARM worker who crashed at a notorious accident blackspot in the Highlands could have been lying undiscovered for more than 24 hours.
Niall Gunn, 25, and his beloved collie, were returning from sheepdog trials at Melvich, Sutherland, Scotland, on Saturday afternoon.
Relatives found Niall’s Astra van on Sunday evening concealed in gorse down a 15ft embankment off the main north coast A836.
Niall and his dog both died in the accident, at a notorious blackspot less than a mile from his hometown of Strathy. Niall had been competing in his first ever sheepdog trial.
Community representatives have repeatedly called for a crash barrier to be erected there.
Mr Gunn was been reported missing by his family. He had not been seen since taking part in the sheepdog trials at Melvich on Saturday afternoon.
Police had been searching for him but it was his uncle David Mackay and cousin John Mackay who came across the wreckage shortly before 9pm on Sunday evening.
Mr Gunn had been travelling west when his Vauxhall Astra van had slewed off the road at the crossroads for Strathy East and Strathy West and careered over a grass verge and come to rest in a patch of gorse near a burn.
The road was shut for several hours while specialist police offices carried out an investigation.
The accident is very close to the home of Janette Mackay, chairwoman of Strathy and Armadale Community Council.
She said: “The whole community was devastated to hear about what happened, especially as he could have been there for about 24 hours before he was found. It’s very sad indeed and I’m so sorry for his family. It’s just a dreadful thing to have happened.
“It’s put a gloom over everybody in the village as he was a very popular and likeable young man.”
Mr Gunn lived with his father Billy at Steven Terrace. His mother Morag died about 18 months ago. His girlfriend, Julie Manson, works in a care home in Thurso.
Mrs Mackay said the community council have repeatedly highlighted the hazard caused at the stretch of road where Mr Gunn came to grief.
“We have been asking Highland Council for many years to erect a barrier and put up warning signs there but they say there is no money.
“There have been a lot of accidents on that bit of road as you come down a steep brae before going into quite a tight corner and if you go on to the verge, it is very narrow and there is a steep drop.
“You also will not be able from the road to see a vehicle that has gone over the verge.” Mrs Mackay said the community council has also been campaigning for a cut in the 50 mph speed limit through Strathy.
The death has also shocked competitors and organisers of the dog trials.
Committee member Willie Findlay yesterday said the Mr Gunn was attending Saturday’s event for the first time as a competitor.
He said: “He was here before as a spectator but it was the first time he competed. It was good he came along to support us. I knew him reasonably well as he lived just three to four miles away. I saw him quite often. He was a very pleasant and likeable fellow. His death has shocked the whole community and is a terrible, terrible tragedy.”
Mr Mackay’s body has been taken for a post mortem examination while a report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal. Police have urged anyone with information to contact them on 101.