Tragedy sparks call for action to cut death toll on A698 near Hawick
A Scottish Government minister is being urged to sanction a road safety review after a young Hawick man became the third person from the town to die on the same 10-mile stretch of the A698 in just 18 months.
Former Hawick High School pupil Leon Ali, 24, of Laing Terrace, died after his car collided with a van near Knowesouth Steading on the Jedburgh-to-Denholm road last Saturday night.
That tragedy has sparked concerns over the safety of the A698 as that same stretch of road has claimed the lives of two other Hawick residents.
On April 6 last year, Dale Whillans, 18, died after suffering serious head injuries when a Seat Ibiza he was travelling in as a front-seat passenger in mounted a verge, hit a road sign and ended up in a field a mile west of Cleikemin, near Jedburgh.
And on February 11 of this year, Kirsty Parker, 34, of Denholm, died in a collision between her Vauxhall Zafira and a Peugeot 207 at the Ashbank junction.
The stretch of road that Leon died on also claimed the life of Sharon McIntyre, 35, of Leyden Bank, Hawick, after her Suzuki Vitara was involved in a collision with a school bus back in October 2010.
Hawick and Denholm councillor Watson McAteer believes answers need to be found in the hope of preventing any further tragedies.
He has written to transport minister Humza Yousaf expressing concern that Leon had become the third Hawick fatality in separate road accidents on a 10-mile stretch of the A698 Hawick-to-Cleikemin road in less than two years.
He said: “It is time this road was subjected to a road safety review to understand just why these accidents are happening and what direct action can be taken to improve overall safety.
“I have likewise contacted the local police commander and Scottish Borders Council to seek their involvement.
“We cannot simply wait until further tragedies happen and must act to reduce the obvious levels of risk associated with using this important cross-borders west-to-east link road.”
Leon, recently appointed as a department manager at Sainsbury’s in Kelso, finished third in the Jedforest Sprint earlier this year, as well as coming runner-up to his younger brother Dylan in the Selkirk Games’ 110m final.
A book of condolence has been opened at the Kelso store, on the Pinnaclehill Industrial Estate.
Leon’s silver Ford Focus collided with a black Renault Trafic van near Knowesouth Steading at 9.20pm on Saturday night as he was making his way home from the supermarket.
He sustained fatal injuries in the collision and died at the scene.
A 46-year-old man and nine-year-old girl in the van involved sustained minor injuries and were taken to the Borders General Hospital at Melrose for treatment, later being released.
The A698 was closed for around seven hours while investigations were carried out by police.
A report will be sent to the procurator fiscal, but inquiries into the accident are ongoing, with police urging anyone on the road around the time of the crash to come forward.
Sergeant Andy Gibb, of Police Scotland’s road policing unit in Dalkeith, said: “Sadly, this collision has resulted in a young man losing his life, and we would like to ascertain the full circumstances of the collision.
“This is a tragic incident, and our thoughts are with Leon’s family.
“We are still investigating this collision and wish to speak to anyone who may have information.
“I would urge anyone who may be able to help our inquiries to come forward and contact us as soon as possible.”
Anyone with information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.