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Glasgow bin lorry crash driver Harry Clarke 'had blacked out at wheel before'

Published 23/07/2015

Henry Toal gave evidence on the second day of an inquiry into the fatal bin lorry crash in Glasgow on December 22 which left six people dead
Henry Toal gave evidence on the second day of an inquiry into the fatal bin lorry crash in Glasgow on December 22 which left six people dead

The driver of a runaway bin lorry that killed six people had suffered a blackout at the wheel years before, an inquiry has heard.

Harry Clarke lost control of the council truck in Glasgow city centre on December 22 after apparently losing consciousness.

An inquiry in to the Queen Street tragedy has heard evidence he collapsed while driving a bus on the morning of April 7 2010.

John Stewart, an inspector with First Bus Glasgow, was called out to deal with the incident reported by a passenger on the number 54 service.

Mr Stewart's notes, shown to the inquiry, said that the driver "advised he'd taken unwell at (bus) stop and blacked out for a couple of minutes".

They went back to the depot and paramedics were called after the driver reported feeling unwell again.

The inspector, 49, noted that he was checked out, given the all-clear and "refused to travel to hospital with ambulance".

The Crown Office ordered a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the crash after prosecutors ruled there was no evidence to warrant criminal proceedings.

It has begun examining the route the truck took, the risk assessments that were in place at the time and Mr Clarke's medical history.

Sheriff John Beckett said today that Mr Clarke was expected to give evidence himself towards the end of the inquiry, which may last up to six weeks.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, died from multiple injuries after being hit by the truck three days before Christmas.

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

Mr Stewart spoke to the driver when he pulled up at a bus stop in Paisley Road West after his reported blackout earlier that morning.

Dorothy Bain QC, representing the family of Jacqueline Morton, said: "So he's been at the bus stop, blacked out and decided to drive the bus? He shouldn't have done that."

The inspector said: "He should have used his common sense and waited for help."

A doctor's letter dated April 8, the day after the incident, said Mr Clarke had been diagnosed as having had a "vasovagal attack" and had been off driving duties.

The letter said: "I understand that he has been advised that he does not need to inform the DVLA of the incident."

The inquiry heard earlier from council refuse truck drivers Alan Kernaghan, 37, and Ian Quigley, 46, who were asked about Mr Clarke on the day of last year's accident.

Mr Kernaghan described him as a "lovely old guy" who was his "normal, happy self".

Mr Quigley said he and Mr Clarke spent their 30-minute lunch break together and he did not seem unwell as they chatted.

Both witnesses said they were not aware of their co-worker having health problems.

The inquiry has heard that since the truck crash a daily risk assessment sheet is available to drivers advising them of any changes or issues with the route.

Mr Kernaghan and Mr Quigley said they only consult the sheet when they feel it is required, such as occasions when a new pick-up location is added to their route.

The inquiry also heard that the council no longer uses its larger refuse trucks for collections in the pedestrianised areas of the city centre including Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street.

Since the accident, pick-ups are made using a smaller van with a cage at the rear.

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