A lorry driver made the heart-stopping decision to risk his own life to save others when he deliberately ploughed his cab into a pick-up truck blocking his path on the A9.
Andrew Swan was driving south through torrential downpours when he spotted the lights of a stationary recovery van on the road in front of him.
The 46-year-old, from Dundee, said the other vehicle was sitting across the carriageway and appeared to be stuck.
Unable to swerve out of the truck’s way because of an overtaking car on his right-hand side, Mr Swan said he was left with little choice.
“I had to make a decision and that decision was to brake, brake, brake and take the hit.
“I put myself in danger but I believe that was the right thing to do.”
On Monday, James McFarlane, the driver of the recovery truck, was found guilty of dangerous driving on a stretch of the A9 between Greenloaning and Dunblane on the evening of December 18, 2019.
He had driven through a gap in the central reservation in an attempt to get onto the southbound carriageway but stopped, blocking one-and-a-half lanes.
After a day-long trial at Perth Sheriff Court, Sheriff Gillian Wade told McFarlane, 46, his actions endangered the lives of himself and four other people, including an 11-year-old boy who was a passenger in his cab.
“It was very fortunate in some respects that this did not result in a loss of life,” she said.
McFarlane, from Paisley, was fined £1,500 and banned from driving for a year.
‘The fright of my life’
The court heard Mr Swan’s HGV smashed into the back of McFarlane’s truck, sending him down an embankment.
Another lorry struck the back of Mr Swan’s vehicle.
Two Police Scotland staff in a passing hire car stopped at the roadside to check on the drivers and passengers involved.
Mr Swan told the court he was heading to the central belt when the accident happened.
“I got the fright of my life.
“At that time of year, you are used to seeing Christmas trees and lights on houses at the side of the road but I could tell that the lights in front of me were a vehicle.”
Mr Swan, 46, said it would have been impossible to steer around the truck.
“It felt like I had to spare my life to save others,” he said.
The court heard that he suffered minor injuries including sore shoulders and whiplash.
Driver heard heavy braking
McFarlane, who runs his own recovery business, told the court he was trying to cross onto the southbound road to reach a Shell garage, where he was due to collect a Mitsubishi 4×4 vehicle.
“The weather was horrendous. The visibility was very poor. It was very dark.”
“It’s a fairly long truck.
“It wasn’t like doing a U-turn in a car. The traction was fairly poor.
“As I was doing this, I heard the sound of heavy braking.”
McFarlane said his truck ended up through a fence and into a field when Mr Swan’s vehicle hit the back of it.
He said: “In hindsight, would I do it again? No.”
Fiscal depute Tina Dickie told the court: “When Mr McFarlane realised he had driven past his destination, he decided to perform this risky manoeuvre.
“He knew he was driving a long, heavy, slow vehicle and he knew he would be entering into the fast lane of a motorway.
“He showed complete disregard for the potential danger to others.”
Witness: ‘We’re going to die’
The trial also heard from Lorraine Baird, a recruitment manager for Police Scotland.
The 57-year-old said she and her colleague Elaine Easton were travelling south in a hired black Mercedes.
She said she was in the overtaking lane to get passed the two lorries, including Mr Swan’s.
Ms Baird saw the lights of McFarlane’s truck about 50 yards in front.
“His vehicle had come to a complete stop,” she said.
“I remember Elaine saying: ‘Oh my God, we’re going to have an accident. We’re going to die’.
She pumped on the brakes, alongside Mr Swan’s HGV and was able to drive around and park safely in front of the accident spot.
A defence agent for McFarlane told the court: “It was a U-turn that went wrong.”