Glasgow bin lorry crash driver Harry Clarke suspended

THE driver of a bin lorry that crashed killing six people in Glasgow city centre has been suspended from work.

Six people died in the crash. Picture: Robert Perry
Six people died in the crash. Picture: Robert Perry

Glasgow City Council said it has suspended Harry Clarke “on a precautionary basis” ahead of a full investigation.

After the crash Mr Clarke returned to work at the Shieldhall waste depot but did not resume driving duties.

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His suspension came after a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) that is taking place into the tragedy was told that Mr Clarke did not disclose his medical history when completing a health questionnaire when he applied to work for the council.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: “The council can confirm that it has suspended Mr Harry Clarke on a precautionary basis pending a full disciplinary investigation.

“A number of allegations have been made during the inquiry in regard to Mr Clarke’s conduct before and at the point where he commenced employment with the council. These allegations have yet to be put to Mr Clarke and he has not yet had the opportunity of responding to them. The internal investigation will therefore take place at the conclusion of the FAI.”

It comes after the inquiry was told that Mr Clarke did not disclose his medical history when completing a health questionnaire when he applied to work for the council.

Yesterday, the FAI into the crash heard that Mr Clarke was “on his last legs” at First Bus following repeated sick days prior to his blackout in April 2010.

Paramedics examined him on the bus and he refused to accompany them to hospital, instead returning to the depot where he informed his managers about the blackout.

He visited Baillieston Health Centre and told a first GP, Dr Gerard McKaig, that he fainted “at work, in canteen, hot environment, no warning signs”.

Later, he visited a second GP, Dr John Langan, who was giving evidence at the FAI yesterday, and repeated his claim that he fainted in the work canteen but then told him he had felt light-headed beforehand.

Mr Clarke was signed off as fit for work by a third GP, Dr Christine Walker, who noted in his record: “Dr Langan has dictated a letter saying fit to drive as had warning signs and reasons for attack.”

First Bus medical officer Dr Kenneth Lyons wrote in a letter that the incident happened on “a stationary bus” and that Mr Clarke “had no particular warning of the event although he was aware of feeling warm”.

DVLA guidelines indicate that people who have suffered a blackout with no external cause (provocation), no warning signs (prodromal) and were sitting or lying at the time (posture) should be referred for further examinations before driving, outlined in “box three”.

Dorothy Bain QC, representing the family of Jacqueline Morton, 51, who was killed in the crash, cross-examined Mr Langan at the FAI yesterday.

She said: “Dr Lyons’ position is that, at work, Mr Clarke passed out behind the wheel without warning. Dr Lyons had material in order to determine that Mr Clarke fell into box three.” Dr Langan replied: “Yes.”

Earlier, Dr Langan said he did not think Mr Clarke’s fainting symptoms would reoccur, based on the information Mr Clarke provided at his consultations.

He said he would have deemed Mr Clarke fit to drive regardless of whether he was sitting or standing, as in his view the DVLA guidelines should be interpreted as requiring further investigations if a recurrence while sitting is deemed likely.

Dr Langan said: “It says ‘unlikely to occur while sitting’, not never.”

However, he later insisted that had he been informed that there was no prior warning of the loss of consciousness, he would have contacted the DVLA for further advice.

Employment law specialist Tony McGrade said: “There is certainly no rule of law which states that the employer cannot bring disciplinary proceedings against this employee while an FAI is ongoing. There is no reason that I can see that would prevent Glasgow City Council from calling the driver to a disciplinary hearing.”

Six people were killed when the bin lorry careered along the pavement on Queen Street. Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, were struck and killed.

Stephenie Tait, 29, and Ms Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, also died in the crash.

The inquiry continues.