Glasgow bin lorry crash might have been avoided if driver had told truth: report


A bin lorry crash which killed six people in Glasgow might have been avoided if the driver had "told the truth" about his history of blackouts, a fatal accident inquiry has found.

A further 15 people were injured when the council truck veered out of control in the city centre on December 22 last year.

The vehicle travelled along the pavement in Queen Street before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel in George Square after driver Harry Clarke blacked out behind the wheel.

The inquiry into the tragedy found that the 58-year-old "repeatedly lied in order to gain and retain jobs and licences" and "deliberately concealed relevant information from the DVLA".

Sheriff John Beckett stated in the inquiry report: "It may well be that the single most useful outcome of this inquiry would be to raise awareness of the dangers involved in driving if subject to a medical condition which could cause the driver to lose control of a vehicle."

He found eight "reasonable precautions" whereby the accident might have been avoided and has made 19 recommendations which could reduce the chance of another such tragedy from happening.

The inquiry heard evidence over five weeks at Glasgow Sheriff Court in July and August this year.

During the hearing, emergency service workers, council staff, doctors, crash experts and those who were inside the bin lorry - including Mr Clarke - gave evidence.

The probe heard that it took just 19 seconds for the tragedy to unfold.

During the course of the incident, numerous members of the public saw Mr Clarke unconscious, slumped forward in the driver's seat.

The inquiry also heard he had a history of health issues dating back to the 1970s - including a previous blackout in 2010 when at the wheel of a stationary bus - but had not disclosed his medical background to his employers or the DVLA.

When he gave evidence towards the end of the hearing, Mr Clarke was warned by the sheriff he did not have to answer questions which could incriminate him as the families of some of the victims had signalled their intention to raise a private prosecution against him.

It is understood that papers could be lodged before Christmas.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton; Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow; and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh lost their lives in the crash.

In his written determination, Sheriff Beckett QC recorded his expression of sympathy for the family and friends of the victims.

He stated: "The whole country was deeply shocked by what happened on December 22 2014, but for the families of six people who died, the consequences extend beyond shock to the pain of permanent loss.

"As it neared its conclusion, the inquiry heard some detail of just how important and valuable those six people were to their families, their friends and the wider community.

"It cannot have been easy to listen to the evidence but many relatives of those who died steadfastly attended the inquiry demonstrating their love, loyalty and commitment for those they have lost.

"I am aware that others chose to keep in touch with the progress of the inquiry in other ways and I can understand why they would do that.

"Relatives in court managed to maintain composure, dignity and respect in circumstances which must at times have been very difficult indeed.

"I pay tribute to the way that they conducted themselves throughout the inquiry."