South Scotland

Driver tells how car somersaulted during fatal crash at Snowman Rally

Rally victims Image copyright Other
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

A rally driver has told an inquiry how his car somersaulted out of control before hitting a spectator.

Graeme Schoneville said he hit a rock on wet gravel before the car rolled off the forest track.

Joy Robson, 51, died at the scene of the crash at the Snowman Rally near Inverness in February 2013.

The fatal accident inquiry (FAI) will also investigate the deaths of three people at the Jim Clark Rally in the Scottish Borders in 2014.

Iain Provan, Elizabeth Allan and Len Stern lost their lives at the rally near Coldstream.

Mr Schoneville gave evidence to the inquiry at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

He said: "We came to a corner and the road surface changed and the car began to slide, which was okay - we'd experienced that plenty of times.

"As I tried to correct the slide, the car then swung in the other direction and impacted a rock."

'People lifting car'

He added that all he could then remember "was a loud bang" at the back left hand side of his Honda Civic.

Mr Schoneville said: "It just went black inside, the car just somersaulted in the air.

"I can remember it rolling: sky, then dark, sky."

The car landed on its wheels among some small trees.

He told the court: "Immediately after the crash, the car landing, (we were) aware of a lot of people round about the car and we could obviously see a commotion and we knew that somebody was potentially under the car.

"That's why we exited the car as quickly as possible."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Three people died at the Jim Clark Rally in 2014

The people surrounding the vehicle were lifting the car, he said.

Advocate depute Andrew Brown QC, for the Crown, asked him: "Presumably you were very concerned?"

"Yes," he replied.

He became aware later in the day that a woman had died and a child had been injured in the accident, the inquiry heard.

Mr Schoneville, who began rallying in 2006, said he had effectively not returned to racing since the incident.

"I tried to, it never felt the same," he said.

He and his navigator were not injured in the incident.

The inquiry heard there were no mechanical defects with the car and the gravel on the ground was wet at the time of the crash.

'Unusually close'

Mr Schoneville said the Snowman Rally had always been popular with members of the public.

Asked about spectators standing close to the road in places, the witness said: "Obviously, with hindsight, it's not safe."

He also said: "The rule of thumb is that you should never stand on the outside of a corner."

Another witness, Michael Hossack, told the inquiry that people had been standing "unusually close" to the track.

Mr Hossack, who filmed the event, described seeing a car in mid-air before it struck a spectator.

The inquiry also heard that marshals tried to move people on but were often ignored. It was common for spectators at rallies to breach safety rules, the inquiry was told.

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