Rally deaths FAI: Crash site was ‘like a war zone’

Police at the scene at the Jim Clark Rally where spectators were killed. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Police at the scene at the Jim Clark Rally where spectators were killed. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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The site of a crash at a rally in which three people were killed was like a war zone, an inquiry has heard.

Marshal Tom Rogers, 27, said if he had known people were standing in that area at the Jim Clark Rally near Coldstream, in the Scottish Borders, he would have stopped the cars.

Photographer Iain Provan, 64, Betty Allan, 63, and Len Stern, 71, were killed when a car lost control crossing a jump on the rally course and hit them.

The fatal accident inquiry is examining their deaths in May 2014, as well as the death of Joy Robson, 51, at the Snowman Rally in Glenurquhart in the Highlands the previous year.

Giving evidence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Mr Rogers said he was marshalling at the Swinton stage of the Jim Clark Rally in the afternoon of May 31 when the crash happened.

He said he had been standing in a crowd of spectators before the jump as the cars passed over a humpback bridge and could not see the people standing at the crash site, apart from a man in a media tabard on the opposite side of the road.

He told the inquiry he heard a “bang” when the crash happened.

He said: “I can remember two cars going over the bridge at about the same time, one after another, and as the car landed it lost control and went into the field to the right of my view.

“I saw the landing of the car as he started losing control but I didn’t see the end position.

“The car went off the road and immediately there was a sense of panic around the area.”

He said people began running to the scene and a spectator told him people had been standing at the crash site, so he closed the stage, alerted the emergency services and then ran to the crash site.

“There was people running around everywhere, there was a car in the field. There were three or four people lying on the ground. It was like a war zone or something,” he said.

• READ MORE: Spot where rally spectators died was ‘highly dangerous’

The co-driver of the car asked him why people were in the area and he replied: “I didn’t know they were there.”

He said a nurse told him to clear the area and that people were attending to the casualties, and he was in “complete shock”.

Advocate Depute Andrew Brown QC asked him: “You would have stopped the rally if you knew people were in that area?”

Mr Rogers replied: “I think on the day I would have done because it’s the difference between one media guy and six people. I didn’t realise people were in that area.”

He said members of the media tended to move around and stand in areas away from ordinary spectators.

Mr Rogers, from Aberdeenshire, was shown set-up plans for the rally indicating the area where the spectators were, and where he had stood was prohibited.

He said he had not seen the plans before and thought he should have been given the information.

Under cross-examination by Susan Duff, representing the stage commander for the rally, he said he did not remember being given course documentation when he signed on for the rally, except a map.

He said he had run to the stage as he was under time pressure but when asked if he thought getting there earlier would have made it easier to tell spectators where to stand, he disagreed as he said they moved all the time.

The inquiry also heard from the driver of the car which crashed, David Carney, 29, from Ireland, who said his vehicle had come off the road the previous day and hit a tree.

Mr Carney said it had been repaired by his team of engineers then undergone further repairs on the day of the crash as the rear had felt unusual during the morning stages.

He said once those repairs had been carried out the car “felt perfect”.