Rallying is dangerous. I’ve known that throughout my 40 years’ involvement with the sport as a competitor, spectator and journalist.
Over the years I’ve seen many crashes and rolls, and even been involved in a few as a co-driver, but what I witnessed during Saturday’s Swinton stage of the Jim Clark Rally will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.
I was spectating at the rally with family and friends and was on the stage where the tragic accident happened. One minute we were happily chatting away with each other – the next minute all hell broke loose.
When we arrived, marshals were busy trying to move spectators away from the area beyond a hump-backed bridge – but they were refusing to move.
The marshals spent a lot of time explaining to them that they were standing in a very dangerous position and had to move.
Other spectators also tried to help the marshals persuade them to move and eventually most of them did.
When the safety car arrived they, too, stopped and explained to spectators that if they continued to stand in a dangerous place the stage would be cancelled.
Once happy that everyone had moved, they drove on. A few of the BRC cars then went through at high speed, getting all four wheels off the ground as they went over the small hump-backed bridge. It was all quite spectacular.
But what followed was just horrifying!
One vehicle took off at the bridge and bounced awkwardly on landing.
The driver seemed to lose control and the car veered right off the road and into the hedge. To our horror, we saw what we thought was debris flying into the air and almost immediately there were shouts from other spectators to “get an ambulance, they’ve been hit”.
It was then we realised that the car had, in fact, ploughed into spectators who had been in that area.
Two marshals standing next to us immediately radioed for an ambulance and called for the stage to be stopped, and spectators ran to the scene to see if they could help.
Spectators waved down those competing cars already on the stage and within minutes an ambulance arrived, along with police and paramedics.
The way people were talking we knew straight away that it was very serious.
It was a terrible sight as spectators of all ages, some in tears, made their way out of the stage with looks of disbelief on their faces, while more emergency service vehicles raced to the scene.
These people had come to watch the rally and enjoy themselves, but instead had witnessed what is a real tragedy.
My sympathies go out to the families of those who died in this terrible accident and my thoughts are also with the driver and co-driver of the car involved.