Glasgow bin lorry driver ‘had no blackout history’

Dr Gerard McKaig leaves Glasgow Sheriff Court after giving evidence. Picture: PA

Dr Gerard McKaig leaves Glasgow Sheriff Court after giving evidence. Picture: PA

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The driver of the Glasgow bin lorry that crashed killing six people days before Christmas gave officials an inaccurate picture of his medical history on seven separate occasions, including on the day of the fatal accident, an inquiry has heard.

Glasgow Sheriff Court has heard evidence that Harry Clarke suffered a blackout at the wheel of a bus in April 2010.

There is a clear disparity between the descriptions

Dr Gerard McKaig

But when he was examined by medics on the evening of the crash last year, he told them he had never suffered a blackout behind the wheel before, the inquiry heard.

It was told the information provided by Mr Clarke that evening – and on six other occasions, to the likes of the DVLA and his employers – was “not consistent” with his medical ­history.

Mr Clarke, 58, was driving the council truck in Glasgow city centre on 22 December last year when he slumped at the wheel and the lorry veered out of ­control.

The fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the tragedy has been hearing from Baillieston-based Dr Gerard McKaig, 50, who was Mr Clarke’s GP in 2010.

Dorothy Bain QC, representing the family of crash victim Jacqueline Morton, highlighted Mr Clarke’s medical history.

It included previous reports of episodes of dizziness, fainting and anxiety from Mr Clarke, dating back to 1976.

One report noted that he suffered an episode of dizziness while driving a bus in 1994.

Ms Bain then took the witness through forms filled out by Mr Clarke for the DVLA in 2006 and 2011, employer FirstBus in 2008, and Glasgow City Council in 2010 and 2011.

In those, Mr Clarke had ticked “no” to questions about whether he had ever suffered such episodes in the past.

Dr McKaig agreed some of the answers to questions were inaccurate and agreed Mr Clarke should have disclosed his medical history.

The inquiry also heard Mr Clarke told medics examining him on the evening of 22 December he had never previously blacked out behind a wheel.

The witness agreed with Ms Bain’s assertion that the statement “wasn’t the truth because we could see a previous episode of blacking out behind the wheel” in past evidence.

The inquiry heard Mr Clarke told doctors on 23 December he had had “no previous problems” except a panic attack in 2004.

Ms Bain told the court: “Seven times we can see in documentary evidence – 2006 and 2011 to the DVLA, 2008 to FirstBus, 2010 to Glasgow City Council, 2011 to Glasgow City Council, two times to doctors in the hospital after the disaster – that Mr Clarke has not been consistent with his reporting of his history.”

“I agree,” Dr McKaig replied.

The inquiry heard earlier that there was a “clear disparity” between two accounts of the brief blackout suffered by the driver in 2010. Glasgow Sheriff Court heard Mr Clarke told his GP the episode on 7 April that year happened in a work canteen.

But a letter from his then employer stated the loss of consciousness happened on a stationary bus, the inquiry heard.

“There is a clear disparity between the descriptions,” the GP told the inquiry.

He insisted his notes would have been based on what Mr Clarke told him and would not have been wrong.

Ms Bain suggested: “There is every likelihood that Mr Clarke would not have been driving beyond 2010 if he had told you that he had blacked out behind the wheel of the bus?”

The QC suggested it would have been identified at that stage that Mr Clarke was a “danger on the road”.

An objection was raised by another lawyer and the witness was not given the chance to respond to the questions.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, died from multiple ­injuries after being hit by the vehicle.

Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from ­Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were also killed as the lorry travelled along Queen Street and towards George Square before crashing in to the side of the Millennium Hotel.

The Crown Office ordered an FAI into the crash after prosecutors ruled there was no evidence to warrant criminal proceedings.

The inquiry, before Sheriff John Beckett QC, continues.

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