Jim Clark Rally crash viewing spot 'ridiculous'

Image source, PA
Image caption, The driver said the spot where the crash occurred was very dangerous

A driver has told an inquiry people were watching the Jim Clark Rally at a "ridiculous" spot before a crash in which a woman and two men died.

Neil Mathews said his car came off the course a few hours before the fatal crash at the same place - by the Lee bridge near Swinton in the Borders.

The 41-year-old said it was an area prohibited to spectators because it was a very dangerous place.

He was giving evidence to a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

The fatal accident inquiry is examining the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Elizabeth Allan, Len Stern and Iain Provan in 2014.

'Jumping effect'

It is also looking at the death of Joy Robson at the Snowman Rally near Inverness the previous year.

Mr Matthews, from Birmingham, was competing in the rally when he crashed his car at the same spot as the later fatal crash, going into a field on the opposite side of the road.

He said his car "took off" on crossing the bridge. He had initially controlled the landing, but the rear of the car began to slide on grass and the camber of the road sent him through a hedge into a field.

He told the court he had no knowledge of the "jumping" effect of the bridge or that there was a history of cars going off the road there.

The court heard evidence from a retired police officer who described the devastation caused by the crash at the Jim Clark Rally.

'Total devastation'

Gary Hoddinott said there were people lying dead or injured near a bridge where rally cars had crashed many times before, describing a scene of "total devastation".

The retired police sergeant, who served for 30 years with the police in Northumbria but now lives in Swinton, had gone to the rally with his wife and daughter.

He said the Swinton stage of the rally had been the scene of "a lot of crashes and near misses" over the years, and the area between the bridge and the East Lodge cottage was to be kept clear at all times. However, he said people kept going into the prohibited zone.

Describing the scene after the crash, he said: "People were shouting 'get help, people have been killed'.

"I ran down to the side of the field, by which time a police car was passing. He got to the field before me and when I entered the field it was total devastation.

"There was a woman with long grey hair who was being attended to by a female, PC Gibson [from the police car] was working on a male who was unconscious and lying on his back. Also nearby another male was lying on his back, conscious, with someone holding his head."

Mr Hoddinott said ambulances and paramedics arrived within 10 minutes.

The inquiry continues.

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