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Three rally deaths could have been avoided, sheriff rules

Safety checks at the Jim Clark Rally in 2014 were 'weak and inadequate'.

A sheriff has ruled the deaths of three people at the Jim Clark Rally three years ago could have been avoided.

Iain Provan, 64, Betty Allan, 63, and 71-year old John Stern died when they were struck by a car at the rally in May 2014.

The incident took place moments after the car had crossed a humpback bridge at a stage near Swinton in the Scottish Borders.

In a written ruling following a fatal accident inquiry, sheriff Kenneth Maciver said "weak, ambiguous, and ultimately inadequate" safety checks had been in place.

The sheriff said reasonable precautions could have been taken which could have avoided the deaths.

He said the area north of the Leet Bridge, where the spectators were struck, should have been clearly marked to prohibit people from standing there.

The inquiry also examined the death of Joy Robson, who died during the Snowman Rally in February 2013.

He said there were "no reasonable precautions" that could have been taken to prevent her death.

Rally: Safety checks were 'inadequate'.
Rally: Safety checks were 'inadequate'.
'Prohibited areas should be very clearly marked with positive and easily recognised taping and signage'
Sheriff Kenneth Maciver

Regarding the Jim Clark Rally deaths, Mr Maciver said a car being driven by David Carney skidded for "reasons which cannot be precisely ascertained" and struck the three spectators in a field next to the track.

He said the field where they were standing should have been clearly marked "so that it clearly prohibited spectators or photographers from standing anywhere in that area".

The sheriff ruled the system for checking the work of stage commanders was "weak, ambiguous, and ultimately inadequate".

Issuing a number of recommendations, the sheriff said marshals must prevent spectators from entering prohibited areas at future rallies.

He said: "Prohibited areas should be very clearly marked with positive and easily recognised taping and signage."

The sheriff noted the car that crashed at the Jim Clark Rally came to a stop inside what should have been a prohibited area but it could have travelled further if it had not hit a post.

He further noted marshal numbers were "close to being insufficient" at certain points.

The fatal accident inquiry heard evidence over a ten-week period in 2017.

The Motor Sports Association (MSA), which governs rallies in the UK, said it welcomed the publication of the 182-page report.

Rob Jones, MSA chief executive, said: "In particular, we acknowledge his thoroughness during the FAI and we are grateful for the fact that he has delivered his report within just two months from the conclusion of evidence.

"We acknowledge the sheriff's analysis of the circumstances leading up to each accident, in both cases arising in the context of events that were organised by what were stated to be experienced volunteers demonstrating the highest levels of dedication and responsibility.

"At this stage, we require more time to fully consider the sheriff's recommendations and we will offer our response as soon as we are able to do so.

"In the meantime, we wish to reiterate our sincere sympathies to the victims' families."

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