A Delivery driver who tried to take his high sided van across the Forth Road Bridge in winds exceeding 80 miles per hour escaped jail after claiming he “didn’t even know he was on the bridge.”
David Stanley, 63, a delivery driver for bedmakers Warren Evans of London, was on his way back to England last year when he drove his light weight “luton” transit van across the road bridge in “extremely dangerous” weather conditions - causing the vehicle to blow over to a 45 degree angle, damage hand railings and causing the bridge to be closed to all vehicles for two hours.
All homeowners below the A90, where the incident took place, were warned that they might have to be evacuated from their home due to the dangerous circumstances.
Dunfermline Sheriff Court heard today that on December 5, 2013, the Forth Road Bridge had been closed to high sided vehicles from 4am that morning.
James Williamson, 51, operations supervisor for the Forth Estuary Transport authority, who was on duty the day the incident took place and saw it happen on CCTV told the court: “The bridge was already closed when I started work that morning.
“When winds exceed 65 miles per hour, that is when the bridge will be closed for high sided motor vehicles - and this closure had been implemented between four and five o’clock that morning.”
When asked by the prosecutor Azra Yousaff, if it had been well advertised that the bridge was closed Mr Williamson said that their were four signs in either direction of the bridge alerting drivers, further indications from Transport Scotland on overhead gantries and a sufficient supply of information on the Forth Road Bridge website.
Stanley had been driving back to London along with his fellow work mate, Steven Fitzsimmons, 39, after staying over night in Perth but claimed the pair only saw the sign saying the bridge was closed a mile in advance - by which point they had missed the last slip road.
Stanley told the court: “We said we would get up early to avoid the snow because that’s what had been forecast.
“I’ve never been in this part of Scotland before.
“I didn’t have a clue where the bridge was, nobody stopped us or anything to tell us it was closed like what they would do in London.
“We seen a lay by but it was already full up with other lorries, if I’d known the bridge was as close I would have stopped.
“I couldn’t reverse back because there was cars behind us.”
His passenger, Mr Fitzsimmons said: “We just followed the route the sat nav was showing us.
“We did see signs saying that the Forth Road Bridge was closed to high sided vehicles but there was nothing about height limits or anything.
“If I had been driving I would have tried to stop but there was no where for us to stop.
“When we got on to the bridge and I was panicky and concerned for my safety.”
Footage of CCTV shown to the court - which is also appeared on Youtube - showed the pair driving the van onto the Forth Road Bridge when it began to sway back and forth due to high winds.
The two men then exit the vehicle before it “topples to a 45 degree angle” and damages the bridges hand rails.
Stanley, of Sprules Road, London was found guilty of dangerous driving and failing to comply with road signs that instructed him that the bridge was closed. He had denied the charge.
Sheriff Ian Abercrombie sentenced Stanley to 100 hours community service to be completed over a period of six months and disqualified him from driving for a year with the condition that he must re-sit and extended driving test before driving again.
Sheriff Abercrombie said: “You put your own life and your passenger in real danger. The footage leaves no doubt whatsoever about that.”
Sheriff Abercrombie added that there are multiple signs on the road from Perth to the Forth Road Bridge so it must have indicated to Stanley it was nearby.
He added: “You are a driver and drive for a living. You will lose your driving licence for a year and the consequences of this are going to affect your life.
“You knew where you were going and you knew there was signage.
“It is a pretty horrendous matter.”