Highlands & Islands

Marshal 'screamed at' for stopping rally in fatal crash

Scene of fatal accident at Snowman Rally
Image caption The death of a spectator at 2013's Snowman Rally is being examined by a joint fatal accident inquiry

A marshal has told an inquiry that spectators screamed at him as he sought to stop a car rally because he thought the conditions were dangerous.

John Clayton, 72, said he wanted to halt the race during 2013's Snowman Rally because motorsport enthusiasts were standing too close to the track.

Mr Clayton managed to have the rally stopped but there were still cars on the track and one of them crashed.

Spectator Joy Robson, 51, from Skye, died after being injured in the crash.

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.

'Spoiling fun'

Mr Clayton, from Mull, said he wanted to stop the stage of the Snowman Rally near Drumnadrochit, south of Inverness, in order to keep enthusiasts standing at "inappropriate locations" safe.

He said there had not been an incident at this point, but felt he could not handle the situation if the rally continued.

Crown lawyer, advocate depute Andrew Brown QC, asked if people were "screaming" at him for trying to halt the event.

Mr Clayton replied: "Yes they were. And at other events people are screaming at you because you are spoiling their fun."

Image caption Elizabeth Allan, Len Stern and Iain Provan died at the Jim Clark Rally in 2014, while Joy Robson, right, died at the Snowman Rally in 2013

The inquiry heard how Mr Clayton was one of two marshals at a hairpin bend close to where Ms Robson was struck by a vehicle being driven by 31-year-old Graeme Schoneville.

The marshal asked for the rally to be stopped because he was concerned about the number of spectators arriving at the location, who were standing where it was not safe.

Mr Clayton told Mr Brown that he contacted the rally stage manager to convey his request.

He added: "I felt it was getting too dangerous. I was not happy with how things were developing."

'Everybody shocked'

The inquiry heard that Mr Clayton's request to stop the stage resulted in cars that had not started being stopped immediately.

However, there were six cars heading for the hairpin. The car which crashed was the fourth vehicle.

Mr Clayton said he heard a "bang bang" and saw the car spiralling up in the air.

The car then went over the top of some small trees before losing momentum and heading straight down, with people running in all directions.

The inquiry also heard from Neil McHaffie, 57, who was a "stage commander" at the rally.

He said he was responsible for liaising with marshals and other staff for the good running of the race.

'Safety! Safety!'

Mr McHaffie, who lives on Mull, recalled Mr Clayton's radio message in the moments following Ms Robson being struck by the vehicle.

The teacher told Mr Brown that he could tell something was wrong from the way Mr Clayton spoke.

He said: "I heard John call: 'Safety! Safety! Safety!'

"You just knew by his tone that something had gone wrong."

In the moments following the collision, Mr McHaffie said there "was no idle chat" and that rally staff were focused on helping Ms Robson.

Mr McHaffie, who told the inquiry that he was a motorsports enthusiast, said he did not go to see any rallies for a time following the fatal accident.

He added: "I felt sickened. I didn't know whether I wanted to remain part of it.

"It was sickening to think that something that you had been part of caused such a tragedy."

The inquiry, which is being heard before Sheriff Kenneth Maciver QC, continues.

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