An elderly driver who caused the death of a mother-of-two taking part in a charity cycle ride has been spared jail because of his age.
Kenneth McClelland, 78, who suffers from angina and arthritis, was returning with his wife from a caravan holiday when he overtook a camper van and the car behind it on a mountain pass.
He ploughed into 49-year-old endurance athlete Sally Preece, who was coming the other way on her bike. The wing mirror of his Volvo S40 R-design D4 caught Mrs Preece’s handlebars.
She was then struck by the wheel of a bike that McClelland was carrying on a rack on the back of his car. She was thrown more than 30 metres before landing in the middle of the single-carriageway A85 trunk road in Glen Ogle, near Killin, Perthshire.
A motorcyclist found her lying in “a foetal position”. A doctor and a paramedic tended to her on the road, and she was taken to the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, Stirlingshire, where she was pronounced dead the following afternoon.
Ann Orr, prosecuting, told Stirling Sheriff Court the driver and passenger of the camper van that McClelland was overtaking had clearly seen Mrs Preece, who was wearing a bright pink top.
The driver of a Renault Clio behind the camper and a commercial van driver behind McClelland had also seen Mrs Preece.
Mrs Orr said the driver of the Clio had been planning to overtake just before McClelland did but abandoned the manoeuvre because she did not think it would have been safe.
The depute fiscal said an investigation revealed Mrs Preece was riding properly towards the middle of the road travelling north and should have been clearly visible to McClelland, who was travelling towards Stirling just south of Lix Toll.
Mrs Orr said: “It was the opinion of both collision investigators that the collision was caused by the accused, who carried out an overtaking manoeuvre by pulling out without checking it was clear to do so.”
Mrs Preece, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was a week into a nine-day Land’s End to John o’ Groats challenge when the incident occurred on September 12, 2014.
She had been taking part in the 969-mile Deloitte Ride Across Britain to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.
The court heard the day after she was pronounced brain dead a transplant team removed her organs to help others.
McClelland, a retired civil engineer, from Largs, North Ayrshire, pleaded guilty in December to causing her death by careless driving.
Sentence had to be put off for longer than usual due to a delay in the preparation of a social inquiry report on the elderly man.
Solicitor Alexander Currie, defending, said McClelland “tendered his condolences” to Mrs Preece’s family.
He said: “Over the past 14 or 15 months he has only been able to imagine how bereft they are at the loss of their dear one.
“He has no real recollection of passing the Renault. When he did see Mrs Preece it was too late to avoid contact. He was travelling at about 45mph.
“He will punish himself for the rest of his life for what he has done. A man who was once energetic and easy going is now subdued and introverted as a direct result of this.”
Sheriff William Gilchrist told McClelland: “These were tragic events, obviously for Mrs Sally Preece, but also for her family.
“I have read victim impact statements from her husband, her mother and her father and it is quite clear, as it inevitably would be, that they are suffering terribly as a result of the loss of Sally.
“The consequences of your driving that day were the most serious – they resulted in a fatality.”
“However, given your age, I do not think it would be appropriate to impose a short period of imprisonment, which would be essentially a matter of weeks.
“I am therefore going to employ a community disposal as an alternative to custody. Your failure to see Mrs Preece was not momentary. You should have seen her. Two drivers preceding you saw her and one driver behind you saw her. But I accept there is genuine remorse.”
He sentenced McClelland to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work, banned him from driving for five years and ordered him to re-sit his test before driving again.
Mrs Preece’s husband Phil and other members of her family were in court to see McClelland sentenced.
Mr Preece looked dumbstruck as the sheriff announced McClelland would avoid jail and afterwards he refused to comment on the outcome.