Highlands & Islands

Inquiry told of effort to free boy from under rally car

Joy Robson Image copyright PETER JOLLY NORTHPIX
Image caption Joy Robson, from Skye, died after being injured in a crash while watching a stage of 2013's Snowman Rally

An inquiry into a fatal accident at 2013's Snowman Rally has heard how people lifted a crashed rally car to free a boy trapped underneath.

David Smart, 53, who was one of two marshals at the scene of the crash, said the "wee boy" was pulled out from under the vehicle.

Mr Smart said: "He seemed a wee bit shaken. I was pretty surprised he was OK."

Another spectator, Joy Robson, of Skye, was injured and later died.

The rally car had earlier struck a rock and somersaulted off the track.

Minutes earlier, the events organisers had brought the rally to a halt due to concerns for spectators.

However, the car that crashed was one of a number still racing on the track.

'People screaming'

Mr Smart told the fatal accident inquiry (FAI) in Edinburgh: "I was in the trees on the right hand side when there was a change of engine noise and I heard a loud bang.

"I looked up and and could not initially see where the car was then saw it in the air."

The marshal said he shouted to a colleague to "get an ambulance".

Mr Smart said: "People were screaming. I ran up there. The car was on the ground, lying on its four wheels.

"Some folk were around the driver's side and someone said 'there's a wee boy trapped under the car'. I think it was the father.

"Three guys came up and lifted it up. His legs and from the waist down were sticking out the passenger side of the car. The boy was pulled out. He seemed a wee bit shaken."

He added: "I opened the passenger door and asked if the co-driver and driver were okay and although they were a wee bit shaken, they said they were fine."

Mr Smart said it was then he noticed a woman under the car.

He said: "A doctor arrived and I told him there was a woman under the car and thought she was critical".

A joint fatal accident inquiry is being held into the death of Mrs Robson as well as the deaths of three people - Iain Provan, Elizabeth Allan, both of Barrhead, and Len Stern, of Bearsden - at the Jim Clark Rally near Coldstream in the Borders in 2014.

Earlier on Wednesday, the event's deputy clerk of course said Snowman "suffered" from large crowds.

Mr Campbell, 52, told the inquiry that social media and TV coverage had increased the popularity of the sport.

He told the FAI at Edinburgh Sheriff Court: "The Snowman suffers most with the number of spectators who come to watch it.

"It's a very busy event. It depends upon the weather on the morning of the rally. Diehard fans will come to the race regardless of the conditions.

"However, people who've started following the sport in recent years may decide to go if the weather is fine."

'Gentle encouragement'

Mr Campbell told the hearing that marshals at the Snowman Rally sometimes had to help spectators stand in safe areas.

He said that experienced fans had developed a knowledge of where they could stand in relation to a rally race track.

Mr Campbell also said that some people did not have that understanding and staff at rallies had to tell them where they could stand.

He said: "You are your own safety officer. Common sense should come into it but sometimes people need help or encouragement to move them to into safe areas."

Image caption The inquiry heard the crash happened in the middle of a forest

Mr Campbell told the inquiry that he had acted as a marshal at previous rallies and had moved spectators who he thought were standing in inappropriate areas.

He said his tactics for getting people to move on depended upon their manner. He said that most people responded to requests.

Mr Campbell added: "A lot of the time, people just need some gentle encouragement. You just need to say 'would you move please'. Sometimes you have to be more forceful with them.

"Most folk are compliant."

'Like sheep'

The inquiry also heard of his concerns about overhanging trees and the width of the road. He said the trees prevented spectators from being able to move back.

Crown lawyer, advocate depute Andrew Brown QC, asked Mr Campbell if he had seen the rally programme.

He replied that he had not and was told by Mr Brown there was a section in it which said "where to see the action", but it had not been specific about the area involved in the fatal accident.

There were signs around the course warning that rallying could be dangerous, but Mr Campbell said he could not remember if there had been any "prohibited signs", which were designed to ban spectators from entering the area.

Mr Campbell said the course had large portions of higher ground, considered a safe place from where to watch a rally, but they were further from car parks and people tended to go to the first place they came to.

Mr Brown asked: "They follow the herd. Behave like sheep?"

Mr Campbell replied: "Yes".

Mark Stewart QC for the Highland Car Club pointed out that some people had walked a considerable distance up a hill, despite the programme telling them there was a shorter walk.

Rally marshal David Smart said he had encouraged people to go to a sensible position further up the track.

One young boy was seen filming the cars but despite repeated requests to move did not. Other spectators also ignored requests to move on.

The inquiry also heard that 2013's Snowman Rally was run "to the letter" of the Motor Sports Association's best practice and the event's safety plan operated as it should have.

The hearing was told that at 10.28 minutes and 37 seconds there was a call to stop the rally and at 10.29 and 23 seconds the rally was stopped.

The crash happened at 10.32 and three minutes later the incident was reported.

Within less than one minute medical assistance was requested and within 30 seconds it was dispatched, the hearing was told.

All this happened in the middle of a forest said Mr Stewart.

The inquiry continues.

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