Glasgow & West Scotland

Fatal lorry house crash in Fairlie 'not preventable'

Crash scene and Catherine Bonner
Image caption The lorry ploughed into the corner of the property, killing Catherine Bonner

The death of a woman after a lorry driver blacked out and crashed into her living room could not have been prevented, a sheriff has ruled.

Catherine Bonner, 55, died and her partner, Jim McColl, 55, was badly hurt in the crash in Fairlie in 2013.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) heard from a consultant neurologist who believed driver George Marshall had a medical condition he was unaware of.

Sheriff Iona McDonald said it was a "tragic conjunction of circumstances."

The hearing at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court was told that Mr Marshall had been hauling coal from Forth in Lanarkshire to Hunterston before the incident in the early afternoon on 14 February 2013..

Mr Marshall said: "I think I remember seeing the church before the bend then just a split second later I seen the house coming before me, then the bang."

"Somebody helped me out of the vehicle but I've no idea who it was."

He described the scene as "just carnage", with the house's outside walls knocked down.

Driving licence taken

Mr Marshall, a smoker, said he started coughing prior to the impact but this had not been a previous problem to his knowledge.

He said his GP had written to the DVLA, and it had rescinded his HGV and car licence.

Asked if he had any intention of driving again, visibly upset he replied: "No."

Dr John Paul Leach, a consultant neurologist, who examined Mr Marshall and his medical records, said he had no history of similar incidents.

He said the driver's coughing fit increased pressure in the chest, reduced blood flow to the heart, resulted in a drop of blood pressure and caused unconsciousness - a condition known as cough syncope.

It had earlier been reported that Ms Bonner and Mr McColl had been watching TV at the time of the accident.

The two-storey house on the A78 coast road was struck at its corner, demolishing the gable end and exposing an upstairs bedroom.

They were both taken to Inverclyde Royal Hospital where Ms Bonner died of her injuries.

A report by pathologists concluded that Ms Bonner died as a "probable" result of sudden stress impacting on her heart condition.

A charge against Mr Marshall of death by dangerous driving had earlier been dropped by the Crown after it had looked into his medical background.

At the FAI, Sheriff Iona McDonald returned a formal determination that nothing could have prevented the accident.

She said: "I simply conclude by offering my condolences to the families of Ms Bonner and Mr McColl.

"They have lost a family member in tragic circumstances."

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