‘Marshals moved us to fatal rally crash position’

Thomas Tait was knocked unconscious. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor.
Thomas Tait was knocked unconscious. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor.
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RACE marshals moved spectators to the spot where they were hit by a rally car, according to a man who was knocked unconscious in the accident which killed three people.

Thomas Tait, 45, was standing “shoulder to shoulder” with Iain Provan, Elizabeth Allan and Len Stern, who died in the second of two crashes at the Jim Clark Rally in the Scottish Borders on Saturday.

Two other injured men, both 61, were still in hospital in Edinburgh last night. One was critical but stable, while the other was stable.

Mr Tait, from East Lothian, was watching the race with his son, also Thomas, when the crash happened. He said that before the crash, marshals moved the group from a spot 50 yards before the bridge, to an area just after the bridge, saying they would be “safer there”.

Mr Tait said he disagreed with them, saying it looked “far more dangerous 
because it was just after the jump” where cars often lose control. He told The Scotsman: “About seven cars after they had told us to move to the new spot, this one car came flying down the road, over the jump and was totally out of control when he landed.”

The accident happened at about 4pm on Saturday at Little Swinton, near Coldstream.

Mr Tait told of his “miracle escape” after he survived the smash with just a few cuts and bruises.

He said: “I don’t remember anything after that. I woke up a few yards from the crash. I don’t know whether I leapt out of the way, but I had been knocked unconscious.

“When I came round I heard a voice shouting, ‘dad, dad’. I thought it was my own son, but then I looked over and it was one of the men who had died. His son was sitting there holding his dad, shouting his name.”

Mr Tait said that after the crash, panic set in.

He said: “People were crying, we were on the phones trying to make contact with the marshals telling them to stop the race before another car came along.

“I was just desperate to find my son who, luckily, was further up the field from me, unhurt.”

Mr Tait, a farm worker from East Linton and an avid motorsport and bike enthusiast, added: “Then shock set in. The next two days were a total right-off. I was standing shoulder to shoulder with those who died and somehow I managed to escape with a few bruises to my arm.”

He added: “For that particular rally they should just shut that whole bit of road to spectators. It’s far too dangerous and claimed too many lives.”

Last night chief marshal Dave Brodie declined to comment when asked about the claims.

Yesterday, families of those who died in the crash paid tribute to their loved ones.

The family of Mr John Stern, 71, known as Len, said: “Len was a special uncle who was well-loved by the family. His death is really tragic but he died watching the sport that he loved.

“Our thoughts are with the driver and his family during this difficult time.”

Also killed in the crash was Iain Provan, 64, and his partner Ms Allan, 63. They had travelled from Barrhead, near Glasgow, while 71-year-old Mr Stern had made a similar journey from Bearsden, also near Glasgow.

Mr Provan’s family said: “The family would like to thank race officials, members of the public and the emergency services for their assistance following the tragic incident.

“We would also like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and ask that our 
privacy be respected at this very difficult time.”

Mr Provan founded the 
Motorsport Scotland website. A picture posted on social media shows the 64-year-old with a camera taking notes on the first day of the three-day rally.

Police are investigating the incident and have appealed for witnesses to both the fatal crash and the earlier one near Eccles. Officers are keen to speak to anyone with video footage or photos of the rally who may have captured the collisions.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland visited the crash site and received a briefing from police.

The crashed car was removed from the scene by officers on Sunday as forensic specialists worked in the area. Private ambulances also left the area as the bodies were recovered.

About 250 competitors had been taking part in the rally, which is one of the largest in the UK. Thousands of spectators were watching the action but it was immediately abandoned after the fatal crash.

Two hours earlier another car left the road and hit five people, one woman and four men, near Crosshall Farm on the Eccles stage of the competition.

Three of the men were taken to Borders General Hospital but one was then moved to an intensive care unit in Edinburgh. The other two spectators were treated for minor injuries.