I had assumed as I started on the road home yesterday - having visited our recently started Crarae 132kV Substation site near to Minard in Kintyre - that the trip home would be a non-eventful two and a half hour drive.
Little did I know that just after I had passed through Inveraray and as I headed east along the A83, near the Rest and Be Thankful, I would come across a scene that I could never have imagined.
Just as I travelled around a corner and over a blind summit, I saw a coach in front of me that had been blown off of the road, rolled completely over and down an embankment, so that it now rested back on its wheels approximately four feet from the edge of a small loch.
Every window was smashed, except the windscreen, and I could see that there were already two other passing drivers who had stopped and were heading down the embankment in order to try and give assistance to the people on the coach.
It was obvious that the accident had just happened and I immediately pulled in to the side, made sure my car was safe and that the road was clear, so that I could jump out and head down the embankment to assist. It’s surprising the things that go through your head, but I do recall thinking at that moment that I was glad that I’d left my sturdy work footwear on when I left the site.
The coach was a “Lochs & Glens” tourist type and it was full of elderly people who, it turns out, were in the area on holiday; I later found out that there were 51 people on the coach, all of whom were ultimately accounted for with five people having suffered serious, but not fatal, injuries.
The first two men who had reached the coach had managed to force the side door open with the help of the passengers and we started to help each of them out of the coach and up the muddy embankment to the ever-growing group of cars and drivers who had also stopped on the A83.
There were a few people who had little to no injuries at all (these were the people who had been wearing seat-belts) and they were obviously able to get up the embankment with just a little assistance to help them remain steady on their feet.
A significant number of the passengers had injuries ranging from small cuts and bruises to more significant head injuries. We continued to assist each one of the passengers out of the coach and up the embankment until all of those who were able to do so had reached the road. By this point the first ambulance had arrived, soon followed by three others, together with three fire brigade trucks and a host of police cars.
As soon as it was clear that the emergency services had taken control of the situation, I headed back to my car; the wind and rain had picked up again and everyone was being soaked and blown around by it. I spent around 10 minutes in my car drying off before I was approached by one of the other helpers and asked if I could take two ladies in to my car to let them get out of the wind and rain – it was biting cold.
Margaret and Christine were cold, wet and still a little shaken, although they had not sustained any serious injuries. I was able to offer them first aid if required, but all they needed from me was a warm and safe place to rest and wait out the process. We talked about lots of different things during the one hour wait sitting in my car and they told me that they had been in Scotland since last Saturday and that they had really enjoyed their trip. They are scheduled to go home today and insisted that this event would not put them off coming back as they love coming to Scotland on their coach trips. Margaret was 85 and Christine was 83.
After about an hour or so - and after the Police and the Fire Brigade had dropped by the car to take Margaret and Christine’s details - we were again approached by a Police officer to ask if I could take the ladies over to Arrochar, as they had opened up the Community Centre there so that all of the passengers could congregate and get fed and watered.
It was only as I said goodbye to Margaret and Christine at the Community Centre, that they told me that they were sisters. They asked me my name and, with a surprised look on their faces, they told me that their dad’s name had been Archie.