THE accident which claimed the life of Lanark Grammar School pupil Natasha Paton has been blamed squarely on the driver Raymond Munro.
Today (Wednesday), Sheriff Nikol Stewart issued her determination in the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the circumstances of the death of Natasha in March 2010.
The FAI found that the cause of the accident was the coach driver, Raymond Munro, losing control of the vehicle by driving at excessive speed in adverse weather conditions.
Natasha (17) and a sixth-year pupil at Lanark Grammar School, died early in the morning of March 31 2010, when the coach she was travelling on collided with a bridge on the A73 near Biggar. The coach had been taking pupils and staff from the school on a trip to Alton Towers.
David Wilson, Partner at Digby Brown Solicitors, represented the family of Natasha Paton at the Fatal Accident Inquiry, which was held in Lanark Sheriff Court, in November and December of last year, with final submissions made in March 2013.
Speaking after publication of the determination, David Wilson said: “The loss of Natasha has devastated her family.
“It is however some comfort to them that this Inquiry has clearly established that Natasha Paton’s death was caused by Raymond Munro.
“The weather conditions were adverse but not impossible to navigate. Had Mr Munro driven with reasonable care, the accident would not have happened.
“The turn at Castledyke bridge was a near 90 degree bend and the Inquiry has established that Raymond Munro approached the bend at 23mph, a clearly excessive speed, given that there was snow and slush on the road. Had he been driving at a reasonable speed the accident would not have happened.
“The family support the fact that the Inquiry determined that no criticism can or should be directed at the teachers of Lanark Grammar School, who did everything reasonable and practical to organise and supervise a safe trip.
“The inquiry also found that, when the tragic accident occurred, staff and pupils reacted with selfless bravery and courage in trying to help others.
“The family wish to thank the teachers and Natasha’s fellow pupils who did everything that could have been expected of them in the circumstances to find Natasha after the accident.”
A South Lanarkshire Council spokeswoman said: “The council express its sincere condolences to the Paton family and fully endorses the views expressed in the determination which acknowledge the family’s ‘fortitude and dedication to Natasha’s memory throughout this long and difficult process.
“We also recognise that for everyone touched by this accident this is a very sensitive time as they reflect on the findings of the report.
“The Lanark Grammar school community has continued to work together in the three years since Natasha’s death to support each other and come to terms with her loss. She will never be forgotten.
“The council will reflect and give careful consideration to the findings and determination published in the Sheriff’s report.”