Spot where rally spectators died was ‘highly dangerous’

Forensic officers at the scene in Little Swinton, near Coldstream, where three people were killed after a car lost control during the Jim Clark Rally. Picture; PA
Forensic officers at the scene in Little Swinton, near Coldstream, where three people were killed after a car lost control during the Jim Clark Rally. Picture; PA

Official documents for a rally where a crash killed three spectators have revealed where they were standing was “highly dangerous”.

A fatal accident inquiry into the deaths heard that set-up plans for the Jim Clark Rally near Coldstream in the Scottish Borders had said the area around where the accident happened should be “kept clear”.

Photographer Iain Provan, 64, his 63-year-old partner Elizabeth Allan, known as Betty, and Len Stern, 71, died after a car lost control and left the road at the rally in May 2014.

The inquiry at Edinburgh Sheriff Court was shown the set-up plans for the Swinton stage, where those killed were standing in a field entrance near a humpbacked bridge, stipulated: “The area prior to and after this bridge is highly dangerous and should be kept clear.

“Do not allow standing within three metres of the hedge. DEFINITELY NO PHOTOGRAPHERS. Any incursions should be reported immediately and the stage stopped until rectified.”

Witness Brian Bolton, 46, told the inquiry it was “ludicrous” that spectators were standing at the site which he said was a “no-go area”, and where he had never seen people before in decades of attending the rally, as cars could lose control after crossing the bridge.

He said tape across the field entrance indicated that people should keep away from the area.

Advocate depute Andrew Brown QC, for the Crown, asked what he would say to people who were of the view that it was safe to stand behind that tape.

Mr Bolton replied: “How’s tape going to stop a car?”

The painter and decorator from Dunnes said he was standing further along the course, looking down on the accident site, when the crash happened in the afternoon of 31 May, 2014.

He said: “I saw the car coming over the bridge and just going sideways. It was the back of the car that hit the man in the media tabard and he just went skywards.

“I couldn’t believe what I’d just seen and it was pandemonium down at the bottom. People were coming up and saying it was absolute carnage.”

The joint fatal accident inquiry is examining the deaths at the 2014 Jim Clark Rally and also that of spectator Joy Robson, 51, at the Snowman Rally near Inverness the previous year.

The inquiry continues.