Tributes To Rally Tragedy Victims

2 June 2014, 19:22 | Updated: 2 June 2014, 19:24

Tributes have been paid to three rally fans who died when a car spun off course and ploughed into the crowd.

The family of a man killed when a rally car ploughed into a group of spectators said he had died "watching the sport he loved''.

Len Stern, 71, was one of three people killed after the car came off the road at the Jim Clark Rally in the Scottish Borders on Saturday afternoon.

About 250 competitors had been taking part in the rally, one of the largest in the UK.

The family of Mr Stern, from Bearsden near Glasgow, said in a statement: "Len was a special uncle who was well-loved by the family.

"His death is really tragic but he died watching the sport that he loved. Our thoughts are with the driver and his family during this difficult time.''

The other victims, Iain Provan, 64, and his partner Elizabeth Allan, 63, had travelled to the event from Barrhead, near Glasgow.

Relatives of Mr Provan, who founded the Motorsport Scotland website, said: "The family would like to thank race officials, members of the public and the emergency services for their assistance following yesterday's tragic incident.

"We would also like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and ask that our privacy be respected at this very difficult time.''

The accident happened at about 4pm at Little Swinton, near Coldstream, two hours after another rally car left the road and hit five people - four men and a woman.

Two of the injured men, both aged 61, remain in hospital - one in a stable condition and one in a critical but stable condition.

An investigation into the circumstances of the crash is continuing today, with Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and top prosecutor, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, to receive a briefing from police later.

The crashed car was removed from the scene by officers last night as forensic specialists examined the scene.

Flowers have been left near the crash site with one bouquet carrying a card reading: "The sport that we all love is very cruel at times.''

Famous names from the world of motor sport meanwhile expressed sadness at the deaths.

Former Formula One world champion Jenson Button posted on Twitter: "Terribly sad news from the Jim Clark rally, my thoughts are with those involved and the families that have lost loved ones.''

An eyewitness to the fatal crash described the incident as like "a bowling ball hitting skittles''.

Colin Gracey, who has watched the rally for years from the same spot close to where the crash happened, said the experience was "traumatic''.

"I think it was the seventh car coming through and it just veered very sharply after taking the bridge and it went right into the field, hitting the people who were stood there. It was shocking,'' he said.

"I was there with my family, my three children, and we go to the same place every year and always watch it from there. It was very traumatic.

"It was like a bowling ball hitting skittles. It was awful, absolutely awful.''

Mr Gracey said a safety car passed through the area before the rally to tell people to stand at a safe distance. But he said some people may have returned.

"There were at least a dozen people standing there and when it happened I thought 'my god','' he said.

"It was horrendous, I've never seen anything like it in my life.''

In a statement following the crash, rally organisers said their thoughts were with those affected.

''All members of the organising team are in shock and are co-operating fully with Police Scotland to establish the facts,`` the statement read.

The rally is named after Scottish Formula One driver Jim Clark, who grew up in the area and was killed in a motor racing accident in Hockenheim, Germany, in 1968.

Police have appealed for witnesses to the fatal crash, and the earlier one near Eccles, to contact them.

Officers are particularly interested to speak to anyone who has video footage or photographs of the rally and may have captured the collisions.

Detective superintendent Kenneth Graham said: "We would ask that anyone who has any video footage or photographs, or has any other information that may help with our investigation, to contact police immediately on 101.''