A DRIVER who shut down the Forth Road Bridge for more than seven hours after ignoring high wind warnings while delivering a fridge has been banned from driving for two years.
The incident on January 9 this year saw courier Darren McQueen ignore the restriction that the crossing was only open to cars when he drove out onto the bridge at 12.47am.
With winds gusting up to 91mph, his high-sided van was soon in trouble and it was blown onto its side and against the central reservation.
To make matters worse the high winds made it impossible to recover the vehicle safely, and it had to remain on the northbound carriageway until winds lulled around 7am.
At Dunfermline Sheriff Court on Wednesday, McQueen, 44, from Beeston, Nottingham, admitted that on January 9 he drove a van dangerously, ignoring signs stating the bridge was closed to all vehicles except cars, drove on to the bridge in high winds, which caused the van to be blown on to its side.
Depute fiscal Ruaraidh Ferguson told the court that at the time McQueen was employed as a courier, delivering items throughout the UK.
He said on the night of the incident there had been clear signs informing drivers the bridge was only open to cars.
McQueen, in the northbound lane, had only managed to reach the south tower before his vehicle was blown over, Mr Ferguson added. The van roof came off, and the wreckage became caught in the bridge structure.
When the emergency services arrived and charged McQueen he said: “I saw the signs saying cars only but I didn’t know where I was supposed to turn off.”
Defence agent Ian Beatson told the court his client had just driven through Edinburgh and was not aware the wind was as strong as it was.
“He didn’t realise how strong gales can be on the bridge,” he added.
The solicitor repeated that McQueen had not known where he should turn off and said he had driven on to the bridge at 20mph “thinking that would be a safe speed”.
Mr Beatson added that his client had been a driver for 20 years but had now found employment in a warehouse.
Sheriff Craig McSherry told McQueen: “People who are responsible for the safety of motorists using the Forth Road Bridge don’t put up these signs for fun.
“They are there to ensure an incident like this doesn’t take place. It’s not for drivers to decide whether they obey. You’ve got to do what you’re told.”
The sheriff added that warnings of restrictions are displayed well in advance of the bridge. He made McQueen subject to a community payback order with 300 hours of unpaid work and disqualified him from driving for two years.