A holidaymaker was this week fined £4000 for causing a fatal smash on a Stirling road in which a 79-year-old grandfather was killed.
German church group leader Klaus Huber, who had been driving in the UK for the first time, had steered his hired BMW 3 Series on to the wrong side of the carriageway on the A85 near Crianlarich into the path of oncoming vehicles.
Forty-one-year-old Huber, driving westwards, was trying to pull into a layby on the eastbound side of the road near Loch Iubhair as his 11-year-old son, sitting behind him, was car sick.
“Without any indication” he steered straight into the path of an oncoming car, a white Subaru being driven by 73-year-old woman Patti MacKenzie, who had no time to avoid a collision.
A sheriff, who spared Huber jail on Monday, said his unfamiliarity with driving in the UK had contributed to the “devastating” crash.
Prosecutor Lauren Staunton told Falkirk Sheriff Court that the front offside of Huber’s BMW had collided with the front of the Mrs MacKenzie’s Subaru, causing both vehicles to be lifted into the air.
Mrs MacKenzie from Helensburgh was severely injured and airlifted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow.
Her husband, Kenny MacKenzie, 79, her front seat passenger, sustained fatal abdominal injuries and despite other road users performing CPR while waiting for an ambulance, he died at the scene.
The accident happened at around 12.35pm on July 27, 2019.
Both cars had been on opposing carriageways and Huber had been doing approximately 50 mph and “causing no concerns”.
His wife Jessica, a 34-year-old pharmacist, told police that their son was being sick into a plastic bag, which was full, and they spotted the Loch Iubhair picnic place on the right and were crossing the road to get into the layby when the accident happened.
Mr and Mrs Huber and their two children, the boy and a 10-year-old girl, had arrived in Scotland on holiday on July 25, and stayed first at a hotel near Glasgow Airport to ensure Huber was fresh to drive to Inverness via Glencoe after picking up the hire car.
Huber, of Reisbach, Bavaria, a joiner by trade, “a pillar of his parish church”, vice-leader of a Christian youth group, and a volunteer fireman, pleaded guilty to causing Mr MacKenzie’s death by careless driving.
Defense counsel Michael Anderson, advocate, said it had been “a tragic but momentary lapse of concentration by somebody who was driving, for the first time, on the opposite side of the road from which he was normally used to be driving”.
Mr Anderson said: “He failed, tragically, to see the oncoming vehicle when turning into the layby.”
He said Huber’s son being sick in the back and Huber’s lack of driving experience on the left, were both factors in the collision.
He added: “Mr Huber is an active member of his local church, which his family attend on a weekly basis.
“He has a deep faith. He is very remorseful.
“He and his wife pray about what happened, and for Mr MacKenzie’s family, every day.”
Sheriff Derek Hamilton fined Huber £4000 and imposed a driving ban – which by law applies only in the UK – of 40 months.
He said Huber’s unfamiliarity of driving on the left hand side of the road had played a part, but he had been driving a right-hand drive vehicle, so his view of the road ahead and oncoming traffic would not have been obscured.
He told Huber: “This devastating accident was caused by a momentary lapse.
“Your failure was that you failed to pay attention.”
In normal circumstances, the appropriate sentence would have been a high-tariff unpaid work order, but it was not possible to give effect to such an order in Germany.
He said that the fine “should not be seen as any sort of measure of the value of the life of Mr MacKenzie”.
Leaving court, Huber, translated by his wife, said: “We are so sorry.”
Mr MacKenzie’s daughter Fiona watched the court proceedings by live video link from Singapore, where she is based. His son Roddy, who was in court, said afterwards: “I’ve got nothing I want to say.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.