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No Inquiry for Rail Crossing Deaths

The MacKays' Car after Halkirk Rail Crossing AccidentThe deaths of three family members at the rail level crossing in Halkirk won’t be given a fatal accident inquiry. In the incident, 81-year-old couple Angus and Margaret MacKay and 66-year-old brother Donald MacKay were killed in a collision with a ScotRail train in 2009 at the unmanned and gate-free crossing – which only has warning lights. Now the Crown Office has said that an inquiry isn’t appropriate following careful consideration of the facts.

The couple’s 51-year-old son, also named Donald MacKay, has told of his disappointment in the decision. He was notified of the decision in a letter from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. The letter said that the Crown Counsel noted how Network Rail had acted responsibly and made improvements to the condition of the level crossing after the incident. It also says the counsel noted that Donald MacKay may have been partially responsible for the collision.

However, the son believes the reference to one of the family members being partially responsible is actually referring to his father, Angus, who was driving. His uncle, Donald, was just a passenger. He felt like he was spitting feathers for a about week after receiving the letter. It’s been really depressing. Their position is that his father may have been partially responsible for the collision, but he still believes Network Rail was negligent in relation to safety measures, he added.

A report on the Halkirk incident was published by the Rail Accident Investigation Brand (RAIB), which said that Network Rail didn’t properly understand the risk at the level crossing, as it hadn’t taken a record of four other accidents into account – one of which was fatal. If the company had recorded the previous incidents, the level of risk may have justified more measures to reduce the risk to safety. Additionally, the risk reduction measures that had been identified would have been implemented sooner, before the 2009 accident involving the three MacKay family members.

The RAIB report recommended six actions to improve safety at the site. One of these was upgrading the level crossing so it has a locally monitored automatic barrier, which Network Rail has investigated. The report shows that the company concluded it wouldn’t be reasonably practicable to upgrade the crossing.

In relation to the 2009 accident, the RAIB report also said that the driver, Angus, may have misinterpreted or didn’t see the warning lights at the crossing. A review of eyesight records revealed that his sight didn’t meet the standard put in place by the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA). The reported added that it appeared Angus wasn’t wearing anything to improve his vision, which he had been instructed to do at examinations in 2006 and 2009.

The Crown Office says that the procurator fiscal received a report in relation to the three deaths. A spokeswoman said the independent Crown Counsel has decided this case isn’t one in which a fatal accident inquiry will be appropriate, following full and careful consideration of all the circumstances and facts surrounding the incident. This case is closed now, she added.

This conclusion follows reports in December that Donald had decided to sue Network Rail for the accident. He told reporters at the time that he thinks Network Rail’s attitude is to blame everybody but themselves. He added that the firm seems to be obsessed with cutting costs, including those for safety, rather than making safety a priority.

 

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