A wealthy sheepfarmer killed a retired Alness shopkeeper in a “catastrophic” horror crash on the A9 when he didn’t react quickly enough to her slowing down.
Richard Harrington was momentarily distracted by a photographer taking pictures at a Highland beauty spot and crashed into the rear of 73-year old Margaret Macbeath’s Vauxhall Corsa on June 27.
The collision pushed Mrs MacBeath’s car into the path of an oncoming Citroen Picasso being driven by a pregnant woman with her two young children as passengers on the A9 near Foulis Ferry, outside Evanton.
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Inverness Sheriff Court heard yesterday that the head-on impact killed Mrs MacBeath, known as Moira, and injured the three others.
Harrington, a 70-year-old with a clean driving licence from Ardross, Alness, admitted causing her death by careless driving and was fined £1,000. He was also banned from driving for a year.
Sheriff Gary Aitken told him: “Perhaps this will remind other motorists that they are in control of a piece of lethal machinery. You will have to live with these catastrophic consequences for the rest of your life.
“It was a small moment of inattention which led to these appalling results. Mercifully these children suffered minor injuries but there was a potential for this to be very much worse than it was.
“The loss of Mrs Macbeath’s life is felt very keenly by her family and this is something that should not have happened. Nothing I can do can ever make up for the loss of life here and no court can put a value on human life.”
The court was told that Harrington was travelling north behind Mrs Macbeath to his 5,000 acre sheep farm when she slowed down as a vehicle two ahead of her pulled into a lay-by.
But Harrington didn’t react quickly enough, swerved and hit the rear of her car. It was spun around 90 degrees and pushed into the path of the oncoming Citroen.
Fiscal depute Fiona Murray said that if he had not swerved, it was possible the collision would not have occurred.
She added: “One witness said it was a catastrophic chain of events where everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong.”
Defence solicitor James Stephenson said his client “deeply regrets” the loss of life and he had been “momentarily distracted” by a photographer.
Harrington did not comment as he left court.
The road was closed for six hours after the summer tragedy, as recovery and investigation work took place on the main route north leaving traffic at a standstill in the sweltering heat.
Locals in the town as well as at the Foulis Storehouse offered those stuck in the traffic refreshments and the chance to use the toilet.
Mrs MacBeath’s son Martin said: “Moira, our mother, was devoted to her family. She has two surviving children and was a grandmother of two. She was a fun and outgoing woman who could get along with anybody. She had been an astute businesswoman and continued to have many interests.
“Moira loved to travel and was due to visit Jersey two days after her tragic accident. The accident was a devastating blow to our family and we are now only beginning to come to terms with its aftermath.
“Since the accident, the police and procurator fiscal have done a fantastic job at keeping us informed of the progress made. We would like to thank them for their professionalism and care while performing their duties.
“Throughout we have attempted to remain philosophical about the terrible events that we have found ourselves in, trying our very best to treat it as a tragic accident.”