Rally Death Victim Thought To Be "Safe"

1 August 2017, 14:32

Floral Tributes at the Jim Clark Rally

A man injured in an accident at a rally which killed his sister-in-law, her partner and his friend has told an inquiry he thought where he was standing was "safe''.

Donald Martin, 64, said he heard a "rushing sound'' before being hit by the out of control car, causing severe injuries.

Mr Martin said he was standing with his son Andrew, friend Len Stern and sister-in-law Elizabeth Allan, known as Betty, behind a taped off area at the Jim Clark Rally near Coldstream in the Scottish Borders, which he believed indicated it was a safe place to spectate.

Ms Allan, 63, her partner Iain Provan, 64, and Mr Stern, 71, died at the rally in May 2014.

A joint fatal accident inquiry is examining the circumstances surrounding their deaths and the death of spectator Joy Robson, 51, at the Snowman Rally near Inverness the previous year.

The inquiry heard that before the accident, Mr Provan joked about the risk of where he was standing, saying: "You won't know until it hits you.''

Giving evidence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Mr Martin, a motorsport fan since his 20s, said: "I would not stand in what I would consider a dangerous area. If there's tape across an area, as long as you stand back that's a safe area.

"If it is not suitable for spectators there should be a prohibited sign.''

He said course marshals moved spectators into the area where he was standing at the Swinton stage on the edge of a field overlooking a humpback bridge before the accident happened in the afternoon on May 31.

He said all the spectators were standing behind the tape apart from Mr Provan, who was photographing the rally.

Mr Martin told the inquiry he became "worried'' when the stage started and a car appeared to slightly lose control and swerve towards where he stood, so he moved back.

Describing the crash a number of cars later, he said: "I started to run and my son Andrew did the same. Something in your mind goes that something's going to happen here.

"All I heard was a rushing sound and then I was hit and I was face down in the field.

"I was injured all down my right-hand side. I smashed all my ribs, injured my groin area, my leg and my thigh. My son said to stay with me.''

Mr Martin said he was put in a neck brace and given morphine by medical staff before being flown by air ambulance to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

He sustained seven fractured ribs, a bleed on his lung and extensive damage to his right leg.

The retired college lecturer, from Renfrewshire, said his injuries mean he cannot stand for any length of time and he is unable to do things he previously could.

He told the inquiry he has not returned to a rally since the crash, despite remaining passionate about the sport, as "there's no way I'd put my wife through what happened already''.

Mr Martin's son Andrew told the inquiry he felt ``safe and in a good position'' as "the tape told me that it was a safe area to stand''.

The 27-year-old said spectators where he was standing were told to move back slightly by a safety car as there was a ditch in front of them, and Mr Provan was told to move behind the tape but later moved back in front of it.

Andrew Martin said this "annoyed'' him and he spoke to Mr Provan about the risk of being hit, and the 64-year-old replied: "You won't know until it hits you.''

The electrician said when the stage started he began to feel unsafe as cars became airborne going over the bridge and swerved, and he had picked out an escape route because he felt it was "unsafe''.

He said: "After I saw the car land and the front wheels dug in and it started shooting towards me, that's when I knew it was time to get out of there. I just jumped and ran as fast as I could.

"I could hear the car impacting as I ran.

"I turned round and looked for my dad. I was standing but he was holding his side and then he collapsed.''

He said another spectator told him Mr Stern had died but he was not aware at the time of what had happened to Mr Provan or his aunt.