A woman has admitted causing the death of two top scientists in a car crash on one of Scotland’s busiest trunk roads.
Dr Stewart Rhind and Dr Julian Dawson suffered fatal injuries after the car they were travelling in was involved in a smash with another vehicle on the A90 Dundee to Aberdeen road two years ago.
The loss of both lives was described at the time as an “immense loss” to Scottish science.
Yesterday at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, Elizabeth-Anne Dixon pleaded guilty to causing their deaths by careless driving.
According to court papers, the 35-year-old drove her blue Volkswagen Golf from the central reservation onto the southbound carriageway of the road, near Fordoun, when it was “unsafe to do so”.
Her actions caused fellow motorist William Spiers to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
Mr Spiers lost control of his black SAAB 9-3 estate, crossing the central reservation before colliding with the silver Vauxhall Astra estate carrying a scientific team from the Institute.
Dr Dawson and Dr Rhind, who were based at agricultural research centre the James Hutton Institute, in Aberdeen, both died from their injuries at the scene.
They had been returning north with colleagues after a meeting in Stirling.
Mr Spiers and the driver of the Vauxhall, Geoffrey Elliot, were also injured in the smash.
The A90 was closed for more than eight hours to allow collision inspectors to examine the scene.
Ms Dixon, from Laurencekirk, yesterday had her sentence deferred until next month for reports and she was released on bail.
She was also disqualified from driving in the interim.
Dr Rhind, of Westhill, Aberdeenshire, worked internationally and had collaborated with scientific teams in the US and Australia on animal research issues.
In the aftermath of the tragic accident his wife June, and daughters Joanna and Sarah, said the 61-year-old had left them with a “wealth of wonderful memories”.
Dr Rhind joined the Hill Farming Research Organisation – a predecessor of the Institute – in 1979 and had worked there ever since.
He conducted a wide range of research – studying nutrition and reproduction in sheep and cattle, cashmere production in goats, behaviour and welfare of red deer and the effects of endocrine disrupting compounds.
He was also the postgraduate student liaison officer for the Aberdeen branch of the Institute.
Dr Dawson, 42, was a graduate of Aberdeen University and had returned to the city to work for the Hutton Institute three years before the fatal crash.
He completed his PhD at the University of Aberdeen in 2000.
He briefly worked at the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute in the early 1990s and returned again in 2010 once it had become part of the Hutton Institute.
Dr Dawson’s research interests encompassed biogeochemical and hydrological processes within riverine catchment systems.
Staff at the Hutton Institute described the pair as “valued and respected colleagues”.