On this day 1967: The Dean Bridge bus crash

IT sounds like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie; a municipal bus packed with terrified passengers, suspended precariously over the edge of a deep ravine.

Friday, 20th January 2017, 11:23 am
Updated Friday, 20th January 2017, 11:27 am
The Edinburgh Corporation bus hangs precariously over the edge of the bridge. Picture: TSPL

But this real-life drama happened fifty years ago this week on the Dean Bridge - right in the heart of Edinburgh.

The terrifying ordeal for the sixty passengers on board the Edinburgh Corporation No. 17 bus began when it hit a lamp post on the south end of the bridge.

It was the middle of an icy Scottish winter and the driver was unable to stop the bus skidding across the road, where it ploughed into a builder’s van before crashing through the bridge parapet.

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The Edinburgh Evening News splash from 20 January 1967. Picture: Contributed.

An Evening News photographer captured an aerial view of the stricken double-decker, which ended eight-feet over the eastern edge of the bridge. Just a few feet more and the bus would have plunged into the Water of Leith 130 feet below - it’s doubtful if anyone on board the bus would have survived such a fall.

The Evening News front page of January 20, 1967 reported that, amazingly, none of the bus passengers were injured and they continued their journey out of the city centre on a replacement bus.

The bus conductress was rushed to the city’s Western General Hospital suffering from shock. The driver – who was not named - broke a window at the back of his cab and climbed through to the passenger area where he too escaped to safety.

The van was travelling into the city and was taking nine workers from Fife to a building site in East Lothian. Van driver Mr. Archie McKilligan from Dunfermline told the News “If it had not hit the van I’m sure the bus would have gone right over.”

The Edinburgh Evening News splash from 20 January 1967. Picture: Contributed.

The near tragedy led to calls for speed limits along with reinforced, raised kerbs and parapets on the Dean Bridge.