How to (or not) write a Sherpa Van Off – Dave Wood

Valley – 1971 – 74, Kinloss 1975 – 77, Stafford 1977 – 82, Kinloss 1984 – 86

Over the years, there have been many accidents involving Troops and MT vehicles at weekends, this is my experience of one such incident.

I believe it was during the winter of 1985 or 86 whilst serving with the Kinloss team – Kas Taylor was Team Leader at the time and the team was based at Ballater near Braemar for the weekend.  As one of the LWB land rovers was off the road and being repaired, MT in their wisdom supplied the team with a Sherpa van as a troop carrier.

After a heavy snowfall overnight on Friday, two hill parties piled into the Sherpa with myself as the driver and set off for a walk up onto the Cairngorms.  The road conditions weren’t too bad, although the road was snow covered, the conditions for driving was reasonable and the sound of the wheels suggested it was somewhat slushy.  As I negotiated a right-hand bend, the vehicle went into a slide to the other side of the road, which I managed to correct (to my surprise) but then found the two nearside wheels had mounted the left hand pavement!  Now I thought, I’ll bring the Sherpa to a controlled stop.  Before I could do this however, the front wheel came into contact with a frozen pile of grit/salt and changed our course sharply to the right.   

 I then remember seeing a wire fence and a large tree and thought Oh no, a head on collision with said tree!   What I didn’t know was that beyond the fence and before the tree was a 20ft drop into the field below.  This is where events seem to slow down as the vehicle gracefully nose-dived into the field and turned over onto its roof!  During all this, silence from the troops.

Once our motion had ceased, we all scrambled out assisted by motorists who had witnessed the crash.  Fortunately, there were no injuries apart from some bruising and whiplash and I think this was due to the van being full of troops and hill bags.  We climbed up onto the road and took various photos of the scene and road conditions for the enquiry that was bound to follow.  At a nearby hotel, we recovered ourselves and made notes whilst the events were still fresh in our minds and spent the rest of the day relaxing and preparing statements of what had happened. 

On Monday morning, I reported to MT and as expected the MTO was not happy, “Mountain Rescue again!” I could hear him say.  A Unit Enquiry was duly formed and in the next 7 – 10 days, I accompanied the Sgt in charge of the UE to visit the scene and chatted to the local Bobby for his thoughts.  He did say that this particular corner I lost control at was known to the locals as ‘rocky corner’ and was the cause of various accidents in the past.  He sympathised with me and said I had just been unlucky given the road conditions. 

The findings of the UE were that I was found to be negligent but excusable, had I been driving a little slower and in a lower gear, the accident may not have happened.  There was also a recommendation that in future, MT would supply the team with a LWB land rover as a troop carrier if necessary. At least something useful had come out of the accident.

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