South Scotland

Jim Clark Rally fatal crash driver thought he had 'taken lives'

Rally crash scene Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr McRae said a car "squiggled and lost it" before the fatal crash

A spectator who saw a crash that killed three people at the Jim Clark Rally has told an inquiry he heard the driver say: "I think I have taken lives."

Conor McRae described standing beside a bridge close to the accident site when two cars came in quick succession.

He said the second car "squiggled and lost it" and he saw a big cloud of dust and people running to the crash site.

He was giving evidence at a hearing into the deaths of Elizabeth Allan, Len Stern and Iain Provan in 2014.

The fatal accident inquiry at Edinburgh Sheriff Court is also examining the circumstances of the death of Joy Robson at the Snowman Rally near Inverness the previous year.

Mr McRae, a 23-year-old engineer from Chirnside, said he had gone to the rally with his father.

They had walked down the road from the East Lodge to go to the humpback bridge over the Lee Water.

Image caption Elizabeth Allan, Len Stern and Iain Provan died in the accident

Mr McRae said it was a popular place to go as the rally cars tended to "jump" after leaving the bridge.

On the way down there were people standing on either side of the road at a point where a car had come off the road in the morning, and in the woods.

Advocate Depute, Andrew Brown QC, asked him if he had seen marshals moving spectators.

"Trying to," said Mr McRae. "Nine times out of ten, they move and then they move back to where they were".

He then described the accident and said there was a "mad rush" of people towards the scene.

'In shock'

Mr McRae said the co-driver of the crashed car asked his father to try to make sure nobody took any photographs.

The driver was "really upset. He had his head in his hands and just didn't know where to look and said: 'I think I've taken lives'."

Mr McRae's father, 51-year old Derek McRae, told the court: "I knew people had been hurt - I think we were in shock for a few seconds.

"I remember people trying to stop other cars coming down.

"Other people were making their way down to the scene to see if they could help and there were other people in the field trying to assist the injured."

'Quite cheeky'

Mark Fisher, a co-driver and navigator, who was at the rally as a spectator, told the court that cars coming over the bridge were probably going at 80mph to 85mph.

He added that he would not have been standing in the place where the crash victims were positioned.

"The blasé attitude by spectators has to change" he said.

Another witness, Callum Shanks, 25, who was a student at the time of the accident but is now an accredited rally photographer, saw two people sitting on the road prior to the rally starting.

Two young marshals asked them to move but he said the men had been "quite cheeky".

He added: "It is difficult for the organisers if people stand where they want and refuse to leave."

He agreed with Mr Brown that if spectators did what they were asked, and not just do what they thought was safe, it would make rallying safer.

The inquiry has been adjourned until Monday.

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