‘Lucky to be alive’: family’s motorhome destroyed by ‘freak gust of wind’

Scene of devastation after the rented vehicle rolled over several times, with the family of four and two dogs still inside, with the van falling apart around them [1]

‘Lucky to be alive’: family’s motorhome blown away while they are in it

Rental vehicle containing two adults, two children and two dogs tumbled down hill towards loch after ‘freak gust of wind’

A family whose motorhome was destroyed by a “freak gust of wind” during a storm in the Scottish Highlands is said to be very lucky to be alive.

The family of four and their two dogs were inside the rental vehicle, which was parked in a layby on Scotland’s North Coast 500 route, when high winds knocked it over and sent it tumbling headlong down a hill towards a loch.

Police and emergency services attended the scene on the A896 near Shieldaig, Wester Ross, but found the entire family and both dogs had survived the accident with only minor injuries.

“It’s a miracle that no one was seriously hurt,” said Peter Schmidt, owner of Luna motorhome hire[2], who had rented out the £70,000 vehicle to the family over the Easter break. “It’s just unbelievable.”

He received a phone call from a member of the family shortly after the accident, explaining that the vehicle had been written off. “They weren’t sure how many times it rolled, or whether it had rolled at all, but when it came to standstill, they all got out and found the van had started to fall apart around them.”

Everything had been thrown about everywhere, they told him, including the roof, which they saw “flying around” in one piece during the accident. “It sounded pretty scary,” he said.

“The kids were resting on the beds, and the fridges in these motorhomes are really heavy and there’s a lot of sharp corners, and there’s knives – because we provide a cutlery set – and there’s gas bottles … when you think about what happened, and all the equipment in there, it’s a complete miracle. They are very, very lucky.”

Photos show the devastation that occurred. “As a friend of mine in the industry said, it looks like it had blown up. But the gas bottles were intact.”

The scene of devastation after the rented vehicle rolled over several times during Storm Kathleen’s high winds.[3]

The two children and the dogs were “pretty much unharmed”, he said, while the adult passengers suffered only bruising.

After making sure the family was OK and receiving medical attention, Schmidt asked for photos of the van and its location so he could arrange for its recovery.

“Of course, my heart sank. But what was more important was that no one was hurt beyond a couple of bruises. And whatever happens to my customers – even if it is a freak gust of wind that blows them off – I feel some responsibility towards them.”

He has been hiring out motorhomes for six years and said that the accident, which occurred during Storm Kathleen[4] last Sunday, was “extremely freakish”.

“The worst I’ve ever seen before this was someone driving under a bridge and taking off the roof. This was a very, very, very freakish incident.”

The storm caused widespread travel and power disruption to Ireland and the UK last weekend, with peak wind gusts of 40-60mph (65-95km/h) recorded quite widely across Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and western parts of England and Wales.

About 180 people had to be rescued from a holiday park in West Sussex and in Cornwall beach huts were washed into the sea by strong winds.

Schmidt is planning to offer more safety briefings to his customers in the future about driving in difficult weather conditions, particularly on the North Coast 500 route, a popular circular route of just over 500 miles around the stunning north coast of Scotland.

“The roads are small, they’re tight, manoeuvring a vehicle that you’re not used to driving is difficult. If there are high winds, then you have to think about how and where you park the vehicle, just in case. Because you never know,” he said.

Luckily, the motorhome was insured, he said, and the family decided to stay in Scotland and, in true British style, carried on with the rest of their holiday, before renting a car for the long drive back to England.

“They chose not to go for another motorhome,” Schmidt said.

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  1. ^ (www.theguardian.com)
  2. ^ Luna motorhome hire (lunamotorhomehire.co.uk)
  3. ^ (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ Storm Kathleen (www.theguardian.com)
  5. ^ Scotland (www.theguardian.com)
  6. ^ Extreme weather (www.theguardian.com)
  7. ^ news (www.theguardian.com)
  8. ^ Share (www.theguardian.com)
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