Oct 5 2012 by Lorraine Waddell, Kilmarnock Standard
A driver has relived the moment he found a former Newmilns man crushed to death in his van by a falling tree.
Peter Cockill made the horrific discovery near Balloch Park while travelling home from his work in Gartocharn.
Winds of up to 100mph had felled trees, blocking roads, on May 23 last year, prompting Mr Cockill to take a different route on to the single track Mollanbowie Road.
The estates manager and director was travelling behind ex-Loudoun Academy pupil Andrew Speirs, who was in his work van when a 50ft oak tree came crashing down on to the vehicle.
At Dumbarton Sheriff Court on Monday, Mr Cockill was giving evidence at a fatal accident inquiry into the 36-year-old’s death.
He told the inquiry: “I turned the corner to find a large tree on the white van. I got out of my Land Rover and could see that the tree had landed on the door of the front section of the van. I spent two to three minutes trying to get into the van.”
Mr Cockill became increasingly concerned that other trees in the area may come down in what he described as “wild” winds and so blocked the road to prevent other motorists becoming at risk.
He said: “There’s an old folks’ home on the corner. I reversed my van back to there. Other trees were bending in the wind that didn’t look safe.”
After raising the alarm, he returned to the scene to see if he could get a response from Mr Speirs.
Mr Cockill said: “Two men had come from the other direction and were trying to get into the van. One of the men managed to get his arm into the van and was checking his pulse. He couldn’t find a pulse.”
Emergency services arrived on the scene soon after and began trying to gain access to the vehicle.
Mr Cockill added: “The wind was very difficult even to stand up in. Tree branches were flying into the air near the accident site.”
Mr Speirs had moved to East Kilbride where he lived with wife Elaine and their daughter, but he was a regular visitor to the area to see mum Jessie of Newmilns.
He worked with a company that installs drinks systems in pubs and was travelling between Drymen and Alexandria when he died.
Sheriff Fraser will deliver his findings at a later date.