A footballer's death following an off-road driving trip crash was both 'tragic and untimely' according to Sheriff Alasdair MacFadyen. Dumbarton FC captain Gordon Lennon, was electrocuted after the vehicle he was in struck an electricity pole on a Ross-shire estate in June 2009. MacFadyen said 'the vehicle's driver was travelling too fast for the conditions' and that 'an inquiry into Mr Lennon's death heard evidence that had described a terrifying sequence of events."
The fatal accident inquiry (FAI) heard that Mr Lennon was a passenger in a 4x4 that crashed into an electricity pole on a mud track in woods on Brahan Estate.
The pole snapped on impact and live 32,000-volt electric cables fell onto the vehicle, electrocuting Mr Lennon as he tried to escape. He was pronounced dead at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
In his newly-published determination, Sheriff MacFadyen said the accident could have been avoided if driver Fraser Hughes had driven with 'sufficient care and attention and maintained proper control' and at a 'lower speed appropriate to the conditions' as he neared the electricity pole. The sheriff said the off-roading activity had fallen outside the scope of the health and safety at work rules and recommended that Highland Council consider whether off-road events which were open to the public, and involved some form of commercial payment, should require a public entertainment licence. He also recommended that Northern Constabulary review its policy on the investigation of vehicle collisions which did not happen on the public highway saying that, 'this would ensure that 'evidence was appropriately and timeously gathered and preserved."
Sheriff MacFadyen praised the actions of Mr Lennon's friend James Hampton.
He said Mr Hampton appeared to have had no regard for his own safety and jumped over what may have been a live electricity conductor in his efforts to try to rescue Mr Lennon and to carry out CPR on him until an ambulance arrived.
During the FAI it was said that the 'off-road crash that killed footballer Gordon Lennon would not have been caused by a competent driver.' Dingwall Sheriff Court heard how police concluded that Fraser Hughes had been driving between 30 and 40mph when the 4x4 hit an electricity pole.
The inquiry heard Mr Hughes who was driving the 4x4 in which Mr Lennon was a passenger say that he 'was driving at between 15 to 20mph on a downhill mud track at Brahan Estate, near Maryburgh, Ross-shire, when the crash happened.'
Later he was told PC George MacAskill, of Northern Constabulary's road policing unit, had carried out an investigation and concluded Mr Hughes had been driving at between 30 to 40mph. His report into the accident stated, 'It is highly unlikely that control of the vehicle would have been lost by a competent driver at low speed.'
The car valeter from Inverness told the inquiry that he always drove on the track in low-ratio, second gear but the police investigation discovered the wrecked vehicle was in high-ratio. The inquiry heard that in second gear, in low ratio, the maximum speed was 18.2mph, but 39.7mph in high setting.
Depute fiscal Ian Smith asked, 'Do you accept you could be wrong to the extent that you could have been doing 30-40mph?'
Mr Hughes replied, 'I accept you could travel down there at 30, but not 40.'
Mr Smith asked, 'You accept you could have been travelling at a higher speed of anything up to 30mph?'
Mr Hughes replied, 'That could be the case.'