Bin Lorry Crew 'Could Not Have Stopped Tragedy'

28 July 2015, 19:06

Bin Lorry crash Glasgow

The two passengers on board a bin lorry that crashed killing six people in Glasgow city centre did not have enough time to stop it from mounting the pavement, a collision expert has told a fatal accident inquiry.

Crewmen Matthew Telford and Henry Toal only had around five seconds to react when the council vehicle started deviating off the road, Mark Hill told the inquiry.

If either of the passengers - who cannot drive - had pulled the handbrake the vehicle would likely have stopped "abruptly", but could also have skidded along the pavement leading to a "significantly higher" number of casualties, Mr Hill, 51, from the Transport Research Laboratory, said.

In his initial evidence yesterday, Mr Hill said it took just 19 seconds for the tragedy to unfold three days before Christmas last year.

Continuing today, he said his calculations showed the vehicle was travelling at 25.9mph when it mounted the pavement on Queen Street and fell to 19.3mph and 10.6mph at further points along the road.

His report on the collision noted that the crew had limited knowledge of driving and were "physically obstructed" from properly reaching driver Harry Clarke, who the inquiry has heard appeared unconscious at the wheel.

Mr Hill also said the two crewmen had a more restricted view and were "unlikely to have foreseen how long the event would last".

He also highlighted the "innate act of self preservation" which can overcome the resolve to act in a dangerous situation, and said the crewmen may have suffered from tachypsychia - when time passes either very quickly or very slowly during stressful situations.

His expert report, read at the inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court, stated: "It appears to me that there was insufficient time for Mr Telford and Mr Toal to avert a collision with the building line."

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson, who is leading the inquiry, asked Mr Hill: "The reaction time then is much shorter than the 19 seconds it took (for the entire event)?"

Mr Hill said: "The available time to react was much shorter, yes."

His report added: "The crew were left with very little opportunity to effect any intervention."

The inquiry has earlier heard that Mr Telford tried to rouse the driver as he was slumped over the steering wheel and Mr Hill said this was "logical" and "natural".

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, were struck and killed by the lorry.

Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, also died.

Mr Hill said an emergency stop switch inside the vehicle - not currently used in road transport - was a viable safety measure but could also be "open to misuse".

His report read: "Had there been access to an emergency switch to disable the vehicle it might not necessarily have entirely averted the event but would most probably have mitigated the consequences and duration."

Mark Stewart QC, representing the Sweeney and McQuade families, asked Mr Hill if a trained crew could have reacted differently if on board the bin lorry, and the witness agreed.

Peter Gray QC, representing Glasgow City Council, later established that Mr Hill has found no example in the transport industry of any training for non-drivers on how to stop a vehicle in an emergency.

The inquiry continues on Wednesday.

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