Footballer crash death 'avoidable'
Published 21/02/2012 | 12:32
The death of a professional footballer in an off-road driving accident was "untimely and tragic" and could have been avoided, a sheriff has found.
Dumbarton Football Club captain Gordon Lennon was electrocuted when the 4x4 he was travelling in crashed into an electricity pole near Dingwall in the Highlands in 2009.
The 26-year-old Northern Ireland-born player, who lived in Paisley, Renfrewshire, was taking a weekend break with his family weeks after he led his club to the Third Division title.
He was a passenger in a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon driven by Fraser Hughes. The footballer was "off-roading" with James Hampton, husband of his fiancee's sister, and two friends, John Martin and Mr Hughes, in woodland on the Brahan Estate in Ross-shire.
Following a fatal accident inquiry, the sheriff found that the vehicle was travelling too fast for the conditions on the track when it crashed.
The 4x4 hit a wooden electricity pole which was broken in the collision, causing the power lines to drop. One of the conductors became caught under the front bumper of the car and an electric current passed through Mr Lennon's body.
Mr Lennon was found on the ground near the car, which was in flames. His friends attempted to resuscitate him, before he was taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness where he was pronounced dead. Mr Lennon had a fiancee, Kelly Dempsey, and five-month-old baby, Kai.
Sheriff Alasdair MacFadyen said his death was preceded by "a terrifying sequence of events", and added that the accident could have been avoided if Mr Hughes had driven with "sufficient care and attention and maintained proper control of his vehicle", and "had driven at a lower speed appropriate to the conditions as he approached the electricity pole".
He said: "The simple truth was that he could have driven the vehicle at a speed where he would be able to react appropriately to hitting stones or ruts in the track and it seemed to me to be inescapable that he lost control of his vehicle only because he was driving too fast for the location and all the surrounding conditions.
"The cause of the accident - that is, the collision between the vehicle and the pole - rests entirely with the driver. He drove along the track, failed to maintain a straight course and struck the electricity pole on the south verge. It is highly unlikely that control of the G-wagon would be lost by a competent driver at low speed. The damage to the pole, G-wagon and the rotation of the G-wagon all point towards a relatively high speed for these off-road conditions."