Glasgow bin lorry disaster driver beat 300 applicants to job, court hears

Harry Clarke collapsed behind the wheel of a bin lorry. Credit: PA

Harry Clarke, the Glasgow bin lorry driver who collapsed behind the wheel in a disaster which killed six people, had beaten more than 300 applicants to the job, a court has heard.

Mr Clarke, 64, interviewed for the role with Glasgow City Council in September 2010 and was offered the position in December after completing a Bupa medical questionnaire, the Court of Session heard in a virtual hearing on Wednesday.

Glasgow City Council is suing First Bus, the former employers of Mr Clarke, over the job reference the firm provided.

(From top-left) Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, Erin McQuade, Stephanie Tait, Gillian Ewing and Jacqueline Morton died in the Glasgow crash Credit: Family handout

Mr Clarke collapsed while driving the 26-tonne vehicle in the city centre in December 2014, causing it to veer out of control and crash into pedestrians, killing six people and injuring more than a dozen others in a 19-second incident.

The hearing was told on Wednesday that Mr Clarke was among more than 300 people to apply for the role of "land and environmental driver". He was interviewed in September 2010 and offered the role in December.

As part of the recruitment process, he had to answer a Bupa questionnaire about his health and was assessed by a council official as "suitable… from a health perspective" based on his answers.

The scene in Glasgow’s George Square after the out-of-control bin lorry careered through streets packed with Christmas shoppers. Credit: PA

He had declared one episode of sickness leading to seven days off in the past two years, the court heard.

On Tuesday, however, presiding judge Lord Ericht heard that Mr Clarke's GP, Dr Gerard McKaig, confirmed he had been misled on Mr Clarke's medical history prior to the crash.

Mr Clarke told his GP that he fainted in a warm canteen building in April 2010, but it later transpired he had lost consciousness behind the wheel of a stationary bus, the case heard.

In a witness statement, Dr McKaig said had he known about Mr Clarke fainting behind the wheel of a bus, he would have "warranted a much fuller investigation" into his health at the time.

The lorry careered up Queen Street in Glasgow hitting Christmas shoppers. Credit: PA

Conditions of Mr Clarke's employment outlined in his December 2010 offer letter included "satisfactory clearance of your pre medical questionnaire; satisfactory references, and satisfactory enhanced disclosure Scotland check".

Glasgow City Council operations manager, Stewart Young, said he has been unable to locate a reference for Mr Clarke despite an "exhaustive search of the customer and business service records".

He added in his witness statement, however, a council spreadsheet states that "a reference had been received for Mr Clarke direct from the recruiting manager and then approved by him on March 25, 2011".

The hearing continues on Wednesday afternoon.

What happened in the Glasgow bin lorry crash?

A 2015 inquiry into the incident heard the tragedy took just 19 seconds to unfold.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents, Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton; Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow; and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, died in the crash.

A further 15 people were injured when the Glasgow City Council truck veered out of control.

It travelled along the pavement in Queen Street before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel in George Square.