Black­outs rev­e­la­tion would’ve saved lives

Fam­i­lies weep af­ter be­ing told deaths were avoid­able if driver dis­closed health past

Lennox Herald - - NEWS - Martin Laing

The fam­i­lies of those who died in the bin lorry tragedy wept in court last week as they heard the vic­tims would still be alive if Glas­gow City Coun­cil had never em­ployed driver Harry Clarke.

Mr Clarke’s boss said he wouldn’t have been al­lowed be­hind the wheel if he had re­vealed his history of black­outs.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grand­par­ents Jack, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dum­bar­ton, were killed on De­cem­ber 22 last year af­ter the truck Mr Clarke was driv­ing swerved onto a crowded pave­ment on the city’s Queen Street. Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jac­que­line Mor­ton, 51, both from Glas­gow, and Gil­lian Ewing, 52, from Ed­in­burgh, also died.

Wit­nesses re­ported that Mr Clarke had ap­peared to lose con­scious­ness at the wheel be­fore the bin lorry went out of con­trol. Mr Clarke had a history of health is­sues dat­ing back 40 years, it was re­vealed last week.

But Mr Clarke, 58, failed to tell coun­cil bosses about his record of prob­lems — in­clud­ing faint­ing and dizzi­ness — when he was taken on.

On Mon­day, the fa­tal ac­ci­dent in­quiry into the tragedy heard that Mr Clarke broke a “bond of trust” with his bosses by de­lib­er­ately not re­veal­ing his history of black­outs.

A wit­ness agreed with the sug­ges­tion from Peter Gray QC as the in­quiry into the deaths of six shop­pers in Glas­gow last De­cem­ber en­tered its third week.

Mr Gray, rep­re­sent­ing Glas­gow City Coun­cil, cross-ques­tioned coun­cil HR man­ager Geral­dine Ham.

Re­fer­ring to Mr Clarke, the QC asked: “In a num­ber of oc­ca­sions and a num­ber of ma­te­rial re­spects, he was not truth­ful about his med­i­cal history, is that cor­rect?” Ms Ham agreed.

Mr Gray asked. “On one view, would you agree that it would ap­pear that the lack of can­dour ap­peared de­lib­er­ate?” Ms Ham replied: “Yes.” Mr Gray con­tin­ued: “The bond of trust so im­por­tant be­tween em­ployer and em­ployee — if it’s ac­cepted, what is con­tained in the med­i­cal records — has been fun­da­men­tally bro­ken be­tween the coun­cil and Mr Clarke. That must be a pos­si­bil­ity, isn’t it?” Ms Ham replied: “Yes.” Ear­lier, Ron­ald Con­way, rep­re­sent­ing the fam­ily of vic­tim Stephenie Tait, said the in­quiry would hear that Mr Clarke is not a “crim­i­nal mas­ter­mind” but some­one who “lied re­peat­edly to get a job and keep a job”.

The in­quiry heard Mr Clarke was ini­tially em­ployed as a school bus driver be­fore ap­ply­ing to work in the road grit­ting depart­ment and then cleans­ing.

He had to fill in a med­i­cal ques­tion­naire as part of his ap­pli­ca­tion due to the type of ve­hi­cles he’d be driv­ing.

Dou­glas Gel­lan, 48, clean­ing ser­vices waste man­ager at the coun­cil, said Mr Clarke would not have been em­ployed if he didn’t have an LGV li­cence.

Rel­a­tives of the fam­i­lies cried as Dorothy Bain QC put it to him: “If he had never been em­ployed, the six peo­ple who lost their lives would still be here to­day?” Mr Gel­lan said: “Yes.”

Ms Bain asked if he knew Mr Clarke had re­ported hav­ing a vaso­va­gal at work in 1989, and Mr Gel­lan said no. The lawyer asked if he knew Mr Clarke was in­ves­ti­gated by his GP and the hos­pi­tal in 1994 af­ter feel­ing dizzy be­hind the wheel. Mr Gel­lan said he did not. He also de­nied know­ing about a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in 2003.

The in­quiry heard that, in De­cem­ber 2011, Mr Clarke had a med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion with a doc­tor to fill in a D4 form to re­new his HGV li­cence. The form said: “Is there a history of black­out or loss of con­scious­ness within the last five years?” The box for “no” was ticked.

Mr Gel­lan was shown a daily log from April 7, 2010, made by an in­spec­tor of First Bus. It noted that when Mr Clarke was a bus driver, he re­ported to t he in­spec­tor that he had blacked out.

Ms Bain said: “If it’s ac­cepted Mr Clarke did in­deed re­port a black­out in April 2010 to an in­spec­tor of First Bus, the an­swer he has given in the D4 form is wrong?” Mr Gel­lan said it would seem so. Ms Bain asked: “You can­not have some­body be­hind the wheel of an LGV who is prone to pass­ing out, can you?”

Mr Gel­lan said: “No,” and ad­mit­ted it was a dan­ger to the public of ex­tra­or­di­nary pro­por­tions.

The in­quiry, be­fore Sher­iff John Beck­ett QC, con­tin­ues.

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