Thursday 29 September 2016

Driver in bin truck tragedy had blacked out before, inquiry told

Lucy Christie in Glasgow

Published 24/07/2015 | 02:30

Lorraine Sweeney (left) and her granddaughter Erin McQuade (right) who were two of the six people killed when a bin lorry lost control, hitting Christmas shoppers in Glasgow
Lorraine Sweeney (left) and her granddaughter Erin McQuade (right) who were two of the six people killed when a bin lorry lost control, hitting Christmas shoppers in Glasgow

The driver of a runaway bin lorry that killed six people had suffered a blackout at the wheel years before, an inquiry has heard.

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Harry Clarke lost control of the council truck in Glasgow city centre on December 22 last year after apparently losing consciousness.

An inquiry into the Queen Street tragedy has heard evidence he collapsed while driving a bus on April 7, 2010.

John Stewart, an inspector with First Bus Glasgow, was called out to deal with the incident reported by a passenger on the number 54 service.

Mr Stewart's notes, shown to the inquiry, said that the driver "advised he'd taken unwell at (bus) stop and blacked out for a couple of minutes".

They went back to the depot and paramedics were called after the driver reported feeling unwell again.

The scene in Glasgow's George Square after the bin lorry crashed into a group of pedestrians. Photo: PA
The scene in Glasgow's George Square after the bin lorry crashed into a group of pedestrians. Photo: PA

The inspector (49) noted that the driver was checked out, given the all-clear and "refused to travel to hospital with ambulance".

The Crown Office ordered a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the 2014 crash after prosecutors ruled there was no evidence to warrant criminal proceedings.

Injuries

It has begun examining the route the truck took, the risk assessments that were in place at the time and Mr Clarke's medical history.

Sheriff John Beckett said Mr Clarke was expected to give evidence himself towards the end of the inquiry, which may last up to six weeks.

Erin McQuade (18) and her grandparents Jack Sweeney (68) and Lorraine Sweeney (69), from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, died from multiple injuries after being hit by the truck three days before Christmas. Stephenie Tait (29) and Jacqueline Morton (51), both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing (52), from Edinburgh, were also killed.

Mr Stewart spoke to the driver when he pulled up at a bus stop in Paisley Road West after his reported blackout earlier in morning of the 2010 incident.

Dorothy Bain QC, representing the family of Jacqueline Morton, said: "So he's been at the bus stop, blacked out and decided to drive the bus? He shouldn't have done that."

The inspector said: "He should have used his common sense and waited for help."

A doctor's letter dated April 8, 2010, the day after the incident, said Mr Clarke had been diagnosed as having had a "vasovagal attack" and had been off driving duties.

Irish Independent

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