Glasgow bin lorry crash driver had past suspension

Pictures of the bin lorry were presented to the fatal accident inquiry. Picture: SWNS
Pictures of the bin lorry were presented to the fatal accident inquiry. Picture: SWNS
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THE driver of a council bin lorry which crashed, killing six ­people, had been suspended by his previous employer when he started working for Glasgow City Council, an inquiry has heard.

Harry Clarke had also previously been given a final formal written warning over his attendance record by First Bus, the fatal accident inquiry (FAI) at Glasgow Sheriff Court heard.

He was suspended from duty by First Bus in December 2010 and started working for Glasgow City Council in January 2011.

Mr Clarke was driving the council truck in Glasgow city centre on December 22 last year when it went out of control after witnesses reported he appeared to lose consciousness at the wheel.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, were struck and killed by the vehicle.

Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, also died.

Solicitor Advocate Ronald Conway, representing the family of Ms Tait, told the inquiry that Mr Clarke was given a formal written warning in the autumn of 2009 over absences from work and had also been given other warnings that year.

These included a two-week absence in August 2009 following an episode of vertigo and a ten-day absence for a knee condition.

The driver appealed against the written formal warning but this was rejected.

Cross-examining Douglas ­Gellan, a cleansing services waste manager for Glasgow City Council, Mr Conway asked whether if he had known about the final formal warning it would have acted as a “red flag”. Mr Gellan agreed that would have been so.

Mr Conway described Mr Clarke as a “deeply unattractive candidate for Glasgow City Council”.

He suggested that the council would not have employed Mr Clarke as a driver if they had known about his absence record and the warnings.

He said: “There’s not the remotest chance that you would have let this man behind the wheel of a large vehicle.”

Mr Gellan replied: “It’s a case of not just me determining if he is fit to drive the vehicle.

“There’s lots of evidence here. We would have taken it into account when making that decision.”

The inquiry earlier heard that Mr Clarke started applying for jobs with Glasgow City Council in 2010.

Mr Conway told the seventh day of the FAI that Mr Clarke’s employment record did not appear to contain any reference from First Bus.

He suggested that the council failed to ask First Bus about Mr Clarke’s employment record. Mr Gellan explained that it is up to the candidate to decide which two previous employers he names as referees.

Mr Conway said: “Someone has blundered: either someone in First Bus who has signally failed in their duty to members of the public, or someone in Glasgow City Council who has carried out a grossly incompetent recruitment process.

“That’s the only two alternatives here.” Mr Gellan replied: “It seems to be, yes.”

The inquiry heard no revised route risk assessment for bin lorries was made to take into account a festive fair in George Square in December last year.

The inquiry continues.