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Answers at last!

Lochaber News: Answers at last!

By Stuart Taylor and Janice MacKinnon
Published: 04 March, 2010

Jason MacIntyre's widow Caroline attended this week's Fatal Accident Inquiry into his death in January 2008 on the A82 after a collision with a council van. Iain Ferguson, The Write Image

THE widow of champion cyclist Jason MacIntyre left a courtroom yesterday feeling that questions that have plagued her for two years over his death have finally been answered.

Caroline MacIntyre said the three-day Fatal Accident Inquiry at Fort William Sheriff Court this week had presented a "fuller picture" of what happened on the tragic day of January 15, 2008, when her husband was killed after colliding with a council van which turned into his path on the A82 on the outskirts of Fort William while he was on a training run.

After the final inquiry session yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon at Fort William Sheriff Court, Mrs MacIntrye said: "It's been emotionally draining. It's been tough to sit through it all, particularly on Monday which was a very emotional day.

"A lot of things have come out this week - questions that had to be asked. I'm glad there's been that opportunity to have everything I've heard over the past two years put to the inquiry formally.

"I think a fuller picture has emerged of what happened on that day and that is exactly what I've sought all along."

Prior to the inquiry, Mrs MacIntyre (33), of Lochaber Road, Fort William, had claimed that police inquiries into Jason's death had "raised more questions than they answered".

She said it took two years of "jumping through hoops" to get the Crown Office to agree to hold a fatal accident inquiry.

The mother of two 11-year-old twin girls added: "I think it's important for Chloe and Morgan, when they're older, to know the full facts of what happened to their dad.

"It's been very tough. But I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to hear everything that happened on that day."

Mrs MacIntyre's daughter Morgan has had a kidney transplant, is registered blind and has other health problems. She has taken over from Jason as Morgan's full-time carer.

She said: "The girls have been absolutely fantastic.

"They're very protective of me and are always making sure I'm okay. They've had to grow up so fast."

Mrs MacIntyre said: "I don't want to speculate on what the Sheriff might say but I am happy to wait for his decision.

"I have had all the answers I expected to get. I knew I would never find out everything but I am thankful that things have been explained in as much detail as they have."

Mrs MacIntyre revealed that the family had received no condolences from Highland Council prior to those offered by solicitor Anna Watt, who represented the council at the hearing, at the start of her closing submissions to Sheriff Douglas Small.

But she added: "I'm glad that she said that, but obviously it doesn't change things on a day to day basis."

Yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon Sheriff Douglas Small heard final submissions from the four lawyers present at the inquiry, who are representing Mrs MacIntyre; the cyclist's father, David MacIntyre; fatal crash van driver Robert MacTaggart; and his employers Highland Council.

Inquiry was for 'fact-finding, not fault-finding', says fiscal

HIGHLAND Council's solicitor at the inquiry Anna Watt claimed yesterday (Wednesday) it had no responsibility for the fatal accident.

The council is being sued for £500,000 by Jason MacIntyre's widow.

It was Ms Watt's submission to Sheriff Douglas Small that a reasonable precaution which could have been taken by Mr MacIntyre would have been to wear more clearly visible clothing which might have been seen by Robert MacTaggart, the driver of the council pick-up which collided with the cyclist at the Carr's Corner Industrial Estate junction on January 15, 2008.

She said that "no reasonable precautions could have been taken by Highland Council which could have resulted in this accident being prevented", adding: "This was a tragic accident, caused by human error, with devastating consequences."

Fiscal Alison Wylie said the evidence presented to the inquiry had shown that the cause of Mr MacIntyre's death was "major and irremediable" head injuries as a result of the collision with the pick-up truck. She said that death would not have been prevented by the wearing of a safety cycle helmet.

She added: "This inquiry has about been fact-finding, not fault-finding."

Responding to evidence regarding the visibility of Mr MacIntyre's clothing on the day of the accident, solicitor Andrew Henderson - representing Mrs MacIntyre and her daughters - said: "It's entirely clear that Mr MacIntyre was there to be seen. I say that because Mr MacIntyre WAS seen by two witnesses prior to the collision, Mr MacTaggart ought to have seen Mr MacIntyre."

He added: "In relation to Mr MacIntyre's death, there is no evidence that any different clothing on his part would have made any difference."

Mr Henderson asked Sherrif Small to consider the question of whether the installation of a road island at the junction bell-mouth could help improve safety at the junction, given that a fatal accident had occurred there.

Solicitor Stephen Macleod, on behalf of David MacIntyre, the cyclist's father, said he "associated entirely" with the points raised by Mr Henderson, commenting that Jason MacIntyre "habitually displayed a high degree of road traffic awareness when cycling".

Donald MacKenzie, acting on behalf of Robert McTaggart, again raised the matter of visibility of clothing in his submissions; quoting road traffic accident investigator Donald MacAskill who had said high visibility jackets "force visibility" on other road users.

Sheriff Small thanked all those involved in giving evidence to the hearing, saying that he realised the details had been "harrowing" for the bereaved family members present in court.

The sheriff will give his determination in writing at a later date.