Lorry driver fell asleep and killed man in lay by

The High Court in Edinburgh heard Ian Thorburn drove off after the accident. Picture: Bill Henry
The High Court in Edinburgh heard Ian Thorburn drove off after the accident. Picture: Bill Henry
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A LORRY driver who fell asleep at the wheel caused his vehicle to strike and kill a motorist who was standing in a lay by, a court has heard.

Ian Thorburn , 53, drove off without stopping after his truck collided with Robert MacLellan, 65, on the A92 dual carriage near Cowdenbeath, Fife, in May 2014.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard on Tuesday how stunned motorists who had witnessed the incident gave chase to Thorburn after he continued going on his way.

The court heard that he failed to brake or give the horrified eye witnesses any impression that he was going to pull over for them.

When police arrested Thornburn at his home and later questioned him about what happened, the motorist told them: “I would like to say but I have advised to say no comment.”

The story emerged after Thorburn, of Kirknewton, West Lothian, pleaded guilty before judge Lady Wise at the High Court.

He pleaded guilty to charges of causing death by dangerous driving and failing to stop at an accident scene on May 19 this year

He also admitted a third charge of failing to report the incident within a reasonable time frame to the authorities.

At the start of proceedings on Tuesday, Mr Prentice told the court that Mr MacLellan’s family have been grieving for the loss of their loved one.

He added: “He is survived by a son and a daughter and four grandchildren aged between 10 and one.

“His family describe him as a caring father and grandfather. They have all found it extremely hard to come to terms with his death.”

Mr Prentice told the court that the accident took place on the A92 just outside Cowdenbeath in Fife, just after 1.15pm. Mr MacLellan had earlier stopped driving and had been standing in the lay by.

Mr Prentice told the court: “The guilty plea is on the basis that the accused drove when he knew he was too tired to drive, that he fell asleep losing control of his vehicle causing it to strike the deceased and thus caused his death by dangerous driving.

“He was aware that he had collided with a person but he did not stop to provide his details nor did he report the matter to the police as soon as reasonably practicable.”

Mr Prentice told the court that that eye witnesses told police that they were driving behind Thorburn’s Mercedes flatbed lorry when they saw it drifting towards a layby where Mr MacLelllan was standing.

Mr MacLellan, of Tain, Ross-shire, had earlier stopped in the lay by. The court heard that eye witness Leonide McGuinness was driving with passenger Andrew Clark when they witnessed the incident.

Mr Prentice added: “Leonide McGuinness was driving on the eastbound carriage way approaching the lay by with Andrew Clark who was a passenger within the vehicle.

“They were following behind a white Mercedes flatbed lorry driven by the accused.

“Andew Clark saw the lorry drift to the left towards the lay by, in his words ‘from sitting centrally within the lane towards the lay by moving approximately three feet to the near side for no apparent reason.

“Leonide McGuinness was then aware of a loud thud and saw the lorry judder as it collided with something and they both saw debris including a person’s boot being thrown onto the carriage way. The aftermath of the collision was filmed on CCTV and shows the deceased landing on the lay by.

“Various motorists stopped to try and assist and the emergency services were contacted.

“The accused’s vehicle at no time had the brakes applied or gave any indication that it was going to stop.

“Leonide McGuinness followed the vehicle and noted the registration number.

“Leonide McGuinness overtook the accused’s vehicle and both Leonide McGuinness and Andrew Clark stated the driver was staring ahead and would not look at them.

“They both gained the impression that he was trying to ignore the fact that he had been involved in a collision.

“Paramedics attended and pronounced Mr MacLellan’s life extinct at the scene at 13.26 hours.

Mr Prentice also said that when Thorburn went home, he didn’t tell his partner that he had struck Mr MacLellan.

Mr Prentice added: “The accused returned home and his partner felt that he was quiet and that something was wrong.

“He stated to her he had a headache and that he had been falling asleep during the day whilst driving and whilst on the A92, he had fallen asleep and his wing mirror had collided with the mirror of a lorry parked in a lay by.”

Mr Prentice said that when police eventually traced Thorburn, they found evidence that the vehicle he had been driving struck Mr MacLellan.

The court heard that Thorburn was arrrested on May 20 2014.

Mr Prentice said that Thorburn declined to answer questions during his police interview.

He added: “During the interview under caution, the accused initially stated ‘I would like to say but I have been advised to say no comment’ and thereafter replied no comment to all questions put to him.”

Defence solicitor advocate Gordon Martin told the court that his client regretted his actions and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

The court heard that Thorburn had no previous convictions. Lady Wise deferred sentence in order for the court to obtain reports about Thorburn’s character.

She also remanded him in custody for preparation of the reports.

Thorburn will be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh on November 20 2014.