By Monica Gibson

THE deaths of a Barrhead couple at a car rally could have been avoided, a sheriff has ruled.

Elizabeth Allan, 63, and her partner Iain Provan, 64, were killed when a car left the road during the Jim Clark Rally, in the Scottish Borders, in 2014.

A fatal accident inquiry into the tragedy, which also claimed the life of 71-year-old Bearsden man Len Stern, took place earlier this year.

And, in a written judgement, Sheriff Kenneth Maciver QC found the deaths could have been avoided if people had been clearly banned from standing in the area where the crash took place.

He also criticised safety checks at the rally, describing them as “weak” and “inadequate.”

Sheriff Maciver wrote: “In respect of the Jim Clark Rally 2014, I find that there was a weak, ambiguous and ultimately inadequate verification system for checking the proper performance of the work of stage commanders or stage set-up crews in delineating and clearly identifying areas which, for safety reasons, were prohibited for spectators.”

Sheriff Maciver found that both Ms Allan and Mr Provan died after suffering multiple injuries in a collision with a car which lost control involuntarily.

He has issued a number of recommendations for rally organisers and other authorities to consider.

Donald Martin, who is Ms Allan’s brother-in-law, was among those who gave evidence at the FAI, held at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

The 64-year-old said he was standing with Ms Allan, his son Andrew and Mr Stern behind a taped-off area at the rally, near Coldstream, which he believed indicated it was a safe place to spectate.

Mr Martin said he heard a “rushing sound” before being hit by the out-of-control car, causing severe injuries.

A motorsport fan since his 20s, Mr Martin added: “I would not stand in what I would consider a dangerous area. If there’s tape across an area, as long as you stand back, that’s a safe area.

“If it is not suitable for spectators, there should be a prohibited sign.”

Mr Martin said course marshals moved spectators into the area where he was standing, on the edge of a field overlooking a humpback bridge, before the accident happened in the afternoon on May 31.

He added that all of the spectators were standing behind the tape, apart from Mr Provan, who was photographing the rally.