Bin Lorry Inquiry Hears Of 'Missed Opportunity'

5 August 2015, 19:13

The fatal accident inquiry into the Glasgow bin lorry crash has heard it is possible there was a "missed opportunity'' to get an accurate account of what happened to the driver over a blackout he had while working as a bus driver years earlier.

Harry Clarke, 58, was behind the wheel of the council truck when it went out of control three days before Christmas in Glasgow city centre last year.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, were struck and killed by the lorry on December 22.

Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, also died.

The inquiry looking into the tragedy has been told witnesses reported that the driver appeared to lose consciousness at the wheel.

It has also been hearing about an earlier episode where Mr Clarke fainted while working as a driver for First Bus in 2010.

Mr Clarke attended his GP the same day as well as visiting Dr Kenneth Lyons, the medical advisor to the company, the following day on April 8.

The inquiry being held at Glasgow Sheriff Court was shown notes made by Dr Lyons of the consultation, which he said his recollection was based on.

Dr Lyons, 61, said Mr Clarke told him he had experienced "an episode of impaired consciousness" the previous day while at work and an onlooker had told him it lasted "five to ten seconds".

The inquiry has previously heard evidence the episode took place while he was on a stationary bus but yesterday it was told Mr Clarke informed his GP it happened in a work canteen.

Dr Lyons said Mr Clarke told him paramedics were called and diagnosed a "vasovagal attack". He said Mr Clarke indicated his GP had agreed and advised him he did not need to inform the DVLA.

The doctor then carried out a physical examination - including checking his pulse rate and heart rhythm - but said there was nothing to indicate an abnormality.

Dr Lyons said he would write to Mr Clarke's GP and also decided Mr Clarke should not drive buses in the meantime.

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC put it to Dr Lyons: "It was a missed opportunity for two doctors to get the history a lot more accurate and to both understand they had been given differing accounts?"

Dr Lyons replied: "I now recognise in retrospect and with the benefit of hindsight."

The court was then shown a letter sent to Dr Lyons from a doctor at Mr Clarke's GP surgery saying he had been "waiting for his lunch in a hot environment" when he fainted.

The letter concluded that there were no further investigations planned and stated he was fit to return as a bus driver.

Dr Lyons said he wrote to Mr Clarke's GP for advice on his diagnosis and prognosis, and said he would expect the doctor would have checked his medical records and history.

He received a diagnosis of a "simple faint" in the letter which also said Mr Clarke was "unlikely" to have another one, the inquiry heard.

Dr Lyons then wrote a report for management at the company which saw him return to driving duties.

During his evidence, Dr Lyons noted he did not receive any report from a bus inspector who had said Mr Clarke had a blackout at the wheel and he was not aware at the time of a different account given to the GP about where the faint took place.

During cross questioning, Solicitor Advocate Ronald Conway, representing the family of Ms Tait, suggested to Dr Lyons that he should have noted the "discrepancy" between the versions of events.

Dr Lyons said he did not see it as a discrepancy and that he had written in his note to the GP that it had happened on a stationary bus.

Helen Watts QC, representing Dr Lyons, put it to the witness that he made two clinical decisions during his consultation - to get a medical report from his GP and, until that was available, he was not going to let him drive.

Dr Lyons told her he then had no "obvious reason" to challenge the GP's view.

During re-examination, the solicitor general told the inquiry that the DVLA never got to know about this incident.

Before finishing his evidence, Dr Lyons admitted the events of December last year have had an influence on decision-making since then.

The inquiry, before Sheriff John Beckett QC, continues.