Three dead in unmanned crossing carnage yet Crown rules out inquiry
A MAN whose parents and uncle were killed when a car collided with a train at an open level crossing in Caithness has criticised a Crown Office decision not to hold a fatal accident inquiry into the deaths.
Angus MacKay and his wife Margaret, both 81, from Inverness, and Mr MacKay’s brother Donald, 66, of Latheron, died in the tragedy at an unmanned, gate-free crossing at Halkirk in September 2009.
The Crown Office said that after “careful consideration” of the facts an inquiry was “not appropriate”. Angus MacKay’s son Donald, 51, from Inverness said he was “disgusted and disappointed” at the decision, revealed in a letter from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
The letter said Crown Counsel had noted that Network Rail had taken “responsible actions” and had made improvements following the incident.
The firm is also looking at installing a new-style barrier at the 23 unmanned crossings throughout Scotland, the majority of which are in the Highlands.
Wick-based procurator fiscal David Barclay wrote: “They note that there have been improvements at the level crossing and that further improvements are to be implemented in the near future.”
The letter also said counsel had noted that “Donald” MacKay “may bear some responsibility for the collision”.
Mr MacKay said the line obviously refers to his father, Angus, who was driving, and not his 66-year-old uncle who was a passenger. The driver was found to have sight problems and was not wearing spectacles as advised. Mr MacKay added: “Their standpoint is that my father might have had some part in the collision. I still maintain there was negligence on the part of Network Rail. It is fair to say I was disgusted.”
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) published a report following the incident in Halkirk stating Network Rail “did not properly understand the risk” at the site because it had not taken into account a record of four previous accidents, one of which was fatal.
The report said: “Had it done so, the level of risk might have justified more costly risk reduction measures, and risk reduction measures that had been identified might have been implemented more quickly and before the accident occurred.”
The RAIB also said the driver may not have seen, or had misinterpreted warning lights.
A review of his eyesight records concluded that, on balance of probabilities, his sight had not met the standard set by the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA).
The RAIB also said it appeared that Mr MacKay was not wearing spectacles to improve his distance vision, which he had been advised to do at eyesight examinations in 2006 and 2009.
A Crown Office spokeswoman said: “After full and careful consideration of all of the facts and circumstances, independent Crown Counsel concluded that it was not a case in which it would be appropriate to hold a FAI.
“The case is now closed.”
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