Two women hospitalised after van driver sneezing fit caused massive car crash

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A van driver who caused a crash that left two women needing hospital treatment told police that he had suffered a sneezing fit due to hay fever in the moments before the collision.

Alexander Harkness crashed his Peugeot van into two cars and left a motorway blocked at rush hour.

The 29-year-old was travelling on Edinburgh's City Bypass when he careered into the back of vehicles at speed.

The Daily Record reports that two women in one of the smashed cars were taken to hospital for treatment after the collision.

Harkness, who suffers from hay fever, told police he started sneezing moments before the high-speed impacts.

He appeared at the city’s sheriff court on Wednesday and admitted driving without due care and consideration.

Fiscal depute Gillian Koren said traffic on the bypass had been “slow moving” and “heavy”, but “free-flowing” sections allowed vehicles to reach 25mph to 30mph.

Ms Koren said it was 4.45pm when a Hyundai SUV driven by Maxine Alexander with passenger Jacqueline Hardy travelled westbound from Sheriffhall Roundabout.

A Hyundai car was being driven behind it by Jordan Brazendale, the court heard, and Harkness followed that in his work van.

Ms Koren said Maxine and Jordan became aware of slow moving traffic ahead and slowed to 15mph.

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Jordan looked in his rear-view mirror, she said, and saw the van “driving towards him at high speed”.

The court heard Jordan didn’t have “time to take evasive action and braced for impact” while there was “no evidence” of emergency braking by Harkness.

The van struck the Hyundai car, forcing it to mount the central reservation and leave the carriageway.

Ms Koren said Harkness’ Peugeot then collided with Maxine’s SUV with its occupants “violently jolted forward by the impact”.

Three ambulances and several police cars attended the crash scene and “traffic was brought to a halt”, she added.

The SUV occupants were taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, with Maxine suffering bruising and a trapped nerve while Jacqueline had muscular pain.

Harkness was also taken to the same hospital for assessment, while Jordan was uninjured.

All three vehicles suffered significant damage in the incident on June 4 last year, Ms Koren added.

Defence agent Ruairidh Mulheron said his client was a “lucky man” as none of those involved were “severely injured or killed”.

Mr Mulheron said Harkness was a gas engineer and was in his company van when he suffered a “prolonged sneezing fit”.

He added: “Mr Harkness knows he should’ve taken action or slowed down.”

The court heard Harkness got out of his van to “check on everyone else about him” following the crash.

Mr Mulheron said Harkness would lose his job if he was disqualified from driving.

Sheriff Matthew Auchincloss imposed nine penalty points on Harkness’ licence and fined him £1875.

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