A WICK bus passenger woke up to a real-life nightmare when she was involved in an accident on the A9 which left two people dead.
The first thing Zena Sinclair knew about Friday afternoon’s crash was when her head smashed into a metal bar, leaving her with 23 stitches under her right eye.
The 65-year-old from Sinclair Terrace was travelling from Edinburgh to Inverness when her bus was involved in an accident with a van between the A889 and B9150 junctions at Ralia, southwest of Newtonmore.
The collision killed van driver Mark McFarlane (38) and his passenger, Barry Murray (28), who were both decorators from the Glasgow area, while 14 passengers on the bus were injured and taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for treatment.
Some of the passengers on board had been heading to the RockNess music festival near Inverness.
Ms Sinclair was sitting at the front of the bus behind the driver sleeping when the accident happened.
She was heading north from London after attending the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations.
“I usually never sit behind the driver, but it was the only seat near the front that was available so I took it,” she told the Courier.
“I was gently snoozing in my seat when the accident happened, but it was the impact of the collision, together with the screams of the young female bus driver, that alerted me to the situation.
“The impact of the crash lurched my head forward and I struck a metal bar which separates the driver and the passengers.
“Even though I had suffered a bad injury, I was more concerned about the driver than myself as the first thing I saw was her slumped over the steering wheel. I thought that she was gone, but it soon became clear that she was conscious, however, she was trapped for a long while.”
All of the passengers got off the bus and waited at the side of the road for 15 minutes for the emergency services to arrive. The bus driver had to be cut free and was later airlifted to hospital suffering from two broken legs.
Ms Sinclair was told she had suffered a severely jagged cut to her eye and remained in hospital overnight before being driven to Caithness by her friend, Isobel Sutherland, from Thrumster, on Saturday.
She said it was the first time she had ever been involved in a serious crash and said that, despite the outcome, she has coped quite well with what happened.
“I was quite surprised at the time as I didn’t panic in the situation I found myself in and neither did any of the passengers,” she said.
“Everybody was quite calm and there were no hysterics as at the time we tried to cope with what happened by making sure everybody else was okay. We just sat on the crash barrier waiting for the emergency services to come when we noticed the steep slope that it protected us from and we realised how lucky we were.”
Traffic on the A9 was busier than usual on Friday as it was the opening day of RockNess.
Diversions were put in place while investigations were carried out by police.