Home News Tragic duo lay in crashed car by M9 for days due to ‘operational failures’
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Tragic duo lay in crashed car by M9 for days due to ‘operational failures’

inquiry
inquiry

Today, almost nine years after a tragic accident on a motorway near Stirling, a 200-page Fatal Accident Inquiry report is released unveiling the causes behind the incident. The accident resulted in the deaths of two people, who were not discovered for several days in their crashed vehicle.

The report disclosed a breakdown in police call handling and insufficient training of the particular officer who neglected the critical step of logging the call that reported the incident.

Involved in the accident were Lamara Bell, 25, and John Yuill, 28. The tragic incident occurred on July 5, 2015, as they returned from a camping trip. The pair’s Renault Clio veered off the M9 near Stirling, and both remained there, undiscovered, for three days, despite a previous alert to the police regarding the incident.

In this tragic event, Mr Yuill, a father of five children, was confirmed dead at the scene. A few later, Ms Bell, a mother of two, lost her life in the hospital.

Sheriff James Williamson, following an intensive Fatal Accident Inquiry into the incident, reported a lack of a system for reconciling information noted by officers with the actions taken. This oversight, according to Sheriff Williamson, was a result of an organizational failure on the part of Police Scotland; a failure that endangered the safety of the public and directly led to the tragic events of July 5, 2015.

The FAI noted that had Ms Bell received medical treatment on the day of the accident, although she would have likely suffered from a long-term neurological deficit, her life could have been saved. Mr Yuill, however, suffered injuries that he could not have survived, regardless of the medical intervention.

The Bilston Glen police call handling centre was experiencing staffing shortages and was under immense pressure during the summer of the tragic accident according to records disclosed to the inquiry. There was confusion among officers about the tripartite call handling system consisting of Aspire, Avaya, and Storm systems.

The inquiry highlights that a retired police sergeant, Brian Henry, received a call from a local farmer named John Wilson, who reported a vehicle off the road. Whilst this information was noted in Sgt. Henry’s notebook, it was not logged into the Storm case management system and thus no action was taken.

The conclusion of the inquiry was that the police hadn’t identified the possibility of calls not being followed up. Sheriff Williamson pointed out that Brian Henry’s lack of training and supervision in the call handling system played a significant role in this human error. This lack of follow-up resulted in Ms Bell suffering devastating injuries and ultimately her untimely death.

Ms Bell’s family, it’s believed, were awarded considerable compensation from Police Scotland as part of a civil settlement in December 2021. Furthermore, in September 2021, Police Scotland received a fine of £100,000 held at the High Court in Edinburgh, following a plea of guilty to health and safety offences, which materially contributed to the death of Ms Bell.

As part of the FAI findings, Sheriff Williamson remarked on Lamara Bell’s unimaginable suffering in the three days following the crash. He also noted that the exhaustive investigations by HMICS, COPFS, PIRC, and two independent experts, produced an astonishing amount of documentation.

Lessons from these insights are something that, according to Sheriff Williamson, should not be dismissed lightly. He made a special point to mention the expectation and hope that Police Scotland, and indeed all major organizations found in want after an unfortunate event, learn from their shortcomings. However, he reassured the public that both the institution of Police Scotland, as well as the experts considering future operations, are confident that the repetition of such an error is highly unlikely.

Finally, Sheriff Williamson extended the Court’s sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to the families of John Yuill and Lamara Bell who have shown tremendous dignity throughout this lengthy and painful process.

Police Scotland has been contacted for comments.

Police officers searching the scene at Junction 9 of the M9 near Stirling where John Yuill and Lamara Bell were discovered
Police officers searching the scene at Junction 9 of the M9 near Stirling where John Yuill and Lamara Bell were discovered
(Image: PA)
Lamara Bell suffered significant injuries and later died in hospital
Lamara Bell suffered significant injuries and later died in hospital
John Yuill and partner Lamara Bell died in the crash, with the police response to the aftermath criticised
John Yuill and partner Lamara Bell died in the crash, with the police response to the aftermath criticised
(Image: Stirling Observer)

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