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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Witnesses recall double fatal crash on main road near Carlisle

Witnesses have described the moments when a horrific crash on the A7 north of Carlisle claimed the lives of a lorry driver and a talented young beautician.

Rebecca Rennie photo
Rebecca Rennie

Rebecca Louise Rennie, 23 – described as “lovely and bubbly” by her family – and lorry driver Ian McQueen, 43, died at the scene of the crash on December 15 last year.

The circumstances of the tragedy were examined in detail at an inquest in Carlisle, where coroner Robert Chapman recorded verdicts of accidental death for both victims.

The hearing heard that the accident happened at Blackford as Mr McQueen’s lorry veered across the road and collided with a Mercedes minibus, in which Miss Rennie, from Newcastleton, was a passenger.

Mr McQueen, a lorry driver with Longtown-based haulage firm WM Armstrong, had been travelling north after making a delivery to Burton-on-Trent.

At a kink in the road, his Scania HGV veered to the right and collided with the driver’s side of a minibus.

The lorry ended up in a field facing north on the southbound side of the road, while the minibus collided with a northbound Ford Fiesta, whose driver was severely injured.

Bus driver William Darling and motorist Cheryl Nelson, who lives near Longtown, were badly hurt.

Mr Darling told the inquest he saw the lorry from a distance and was not concerned about it, though he said that the road can be difficult for wide vehicles.

He commented that the bend in the road was not one he would normally slow for.

Mr Darling recalled seeing the lorry as he approached the bend, but he could not recall anything else before coming to and having medical treatment.

He suffered injuries to his face from broken glass. His bus ended up facing the wrong way in the southbound lane.

Ms Nelson recalled that it was a dark morning.

She travels along the road to go to work in Longtown every day but did not notice anything unusual until she saw the Mercedes heading towards her, she told the hearing.

“I ended up spinning and facing the wrong way,” she said. She also suffered facial injuries and bruising on her body.

Paramedics and police attended the scene and found both Miss Rennie and Mr McQueen had died.

Both had suffered severe head injuries. Pathology reports showed that there was no trace of either drink or drugs in either of them. There was evidence Mr McQueen had a mild heart condition, but the pathologist ruled this out as a cause of the accident.

Mr McQueen, from Lochside, Dumfries, had left Burton with a colleague, who followed him for some of the journey.

At the kink in the road he heard a loud bang and saw Mr McQueen veer to the right but did not see the collision.

Police collision investigator Mark Dempster thought ice on the road was unlikely to have been a cause – though one witness had reported it.

He also thought it unlikely Mr McQueen had fallen asleep at the wheel.

The officer thought the most likely cause of the crash was that the lorry driver had been distracted while driving.

After the tragedy, the family of Miss Rennie, who worked for Razzmatazz Theatre School after working at a Carlisle salon, said: “She had a lovely, bubbly personality.”

Mr McQueen’s family said he had been a “big kid” at heart, and would be hugely missed by his loved ones.

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