Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow bin lorry crash survivor: 'Please don't let me die'

Alix Stewart Image copyright Caters
Image caption Alix Stewart has been picked for the Scottish basketball team

An inquiry into the Glasgow bin lorry crash has heard how one survivor was thinking "please don't let me die" as she was dragged under the vehicle.

Alix Stewart recalled the experience in a victim statement which was read to the inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

The teenager suffered injuries including a broken spine and lost an ear in the crash on 22 December.

Statements from other survivors spoke of permanent disfigurement and ongoing physical and psychological trauma.

Six people died and 15 were injured in the crash in Glasgow city centre.

The fatal accident inquiry (FAI), which is drawing to a close at Glasgow Sheriff Court, is looking at the health of the bin lorry driver Harry Clarke, 58, the bin lorry and its route.

'Road tattoo'

On Tuesday, victim statements from some of those who survived the crash were read in court.

Alix Stewart, who was 14 at the time of the crash, was meeting friends in Royal Exchange Square when she was hit by the bin lorry and dragged under it to George Square.

A statement written by her father Colin detailed how she suffered a catalogue of injuries including a broken collar bone, ribs, femur and three spinal bones.

Her right ear was also torn off and all the skin was "scraped off her back" leaving her with a "road tattoo" - permanent scarring with grit from the road embedded under the skin.

Her father told how the 14-year-old had been picked for the Scottish basketball team only days before the crash.

Image caption (Clockwise from top left) Jack Sweeney, Lorraine Sweeney, Erin McQuade, Jacqueline Morton, Stephenie Tait and Gillian Ewing were killed in the crash

She did not play the sport for seven months and was off school for an extended period, but has since returned and has also been picked for the Scotland team once again.

Mr Stewart said his daughter does not remember being hit by the lorry but can remember being dragged along the road and thinking "please don't let me die".

Mr Stewart's statement read: "She has returned to George Square only once since and she told me she wouldn't go back.

"She is also anxious when she sees a bin lorry and starts shaking. I also shiver."

Bone graft

A statement was also read from Irene McAuley, who was 18 at the time of the crash.

She lost teeth and broke her ankle and had six months of physiotherapy.

Her statement said she needed a bone graft in her jaw as she hit her head on the kerb and may need another graft in future.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Six people died and 15 were injured in the crash

Ms McAuley said the crash will affect her for the rest of her life and she still has nightmares.

The court then heard a statement from Marie Weatherall, who was 64 at the time of the crash. She suffered a broken arm and shoulder.

She said she was a "keen walker" before the crash but now had difficultly walking any distance.

Mrs Weatherall said the crash had taken away a lot of her confidence and motivation and she thinks about those who died "all the time".

Elaine Morrell, who was 49 at the time of the crash, also had her statement read.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Driver Harry Clarke gave evidence to the inquiry last week

She suffered a serious eye injury and had facial surgery and a metal plate implanted.

She said she still cannot go back to George Square or go to her office which overlooks the crash scene.

The inquiry has already heard that Mr Clarke was unconscious at the wheel of the Glasgow City Council bin lorry when it veered out of control on Queen Street before crashing in George Square.

It has also heard that he suffered an earlier blackout at the wheel of a stationary bus in 2010 when he worked for First Bus as a driver.

This episode and his history of dizziness and other ailments were not disclosed to Glasgow City Council and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

On Tuesday, a minute read to the court stated that Glasgow City Council would have been unlikely to have employed Mr Clarke if it was aware of the blackout, if his licence had been suspended at the time and if he had disclosed the incident in his application.

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson has started making her final submissions to the court.

The QC spent most of Tuesday afternoon going over much of the evidence the inquiry has covered since it started last month, including medical evidence.

The inquiry continues.

Analysis by Reevel Alderson, BBC Scotland's home affairs correspondent

It is highly unusual for victim impact statements to be heard at the end of a fatal accident inquiry (FAI), particularly those of people injured in an accident.

Sheriff John Beckett QC asked for the statements to be read out as part of a "joint minute" - evidence agreed by all parties at the Glasgow bin lorry inquiry.

He had requested additional evidence to be gathered from four of the 15 people injured by the runaway vehicle.

Their cases had been highlighted during the FAI.

The extra statements were gathered by police over the weekend.

Although it is not part of normal procedure at an FAI, some legal experts say they have been presented by the Crown as part of its wider remit to represent "the public interest".

Victim impact statements can be heard at the end of criminal cases, prior to sentencing.

The judge or sheriff must take them into account when deciding on what sentence the accused should receive.

But it is not part of the role of an FAI to apportion blame.

Normally the only people entitled to be represented at an inquiry are the employers involved, relatives of the deceased, the Health and Safety Executive and anyone likely to be criticised during proceedings.

Some inquiries, such as those into the 2004 Stockline disaster in Glasgow and the Piper Alpha inquiry in 1988, were heard by judges rather than a sheriff.

They were able to take a wider view, as they were established under different legislation.

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