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Search for hero policeman 40 years on from bus crash

By Lorna Thompson

A WOMAN has launched a search for a young policeman who carried her unconscious from a bus wreck 40 years ago.

One snowy March night in 1979, Diane Leckie, then a 14-year-old from Kingston, was among a party of Milne's High School pupils returning from a theatre performance of Tom Sawyer in Aberdeen.

In pitch dark and in treacherous conditions their bus hit black ice on a bend on the Rothes to Orton stretch, skidding off the road and landing precariously on its roof.

Six of the 14 people on board, including the young Diane, were taken to Dr Gray's Hospital in the early hours of the morning. Amazingly, all escaped as walking wounded with minor injuries. One boy had an ear lobe torn off.

However, if it hadn't been for one policeman's extra diligence, the outcome could well have been more serious for Diane.

Diane (54), who after a life of globe-trotting has now settled in Glasgow, said: "This is a search for some help out there to find someone who has lurked in my memory for 40 years.

"It would mean a lot to me to be able to know his name and say thanks."

Just before the accident, a group of Diane's friends had disembarked so she'd moved from the back to the front of the bus. And when police attended after the crash, it was thought at first that all were accounted for. But officers were mistaken.

Diane Leckie as a young teenager.
Diane Leckie as a young teenager.

As the other pupils were carried to safety Diane lay on her back, unconscious and trapped under seats. She briefly came round and felt her cheek against the snow and broken glass.

The bus was on the brink of rolling further down an embankment.

Ambulance staff at the time were on strike after 11pm in a debate over pay, so the extra responsibility for the emergency response fell on the police and fire service. The six taken to hospital were transported in a police van.

Amid the children's panic and the freezing cold, one of the officers acted on his own initiative to carry out one last check – despite being told all were present and correct. His instinct saved the day – he discovered the youngster and carried her to safety.

Diane said: "It was all thanks to a young policeman who – despite being told all were out decided it best to do one final, solo search – that he found me and was able to carry me out.

"Due to the others being unaware of me sitting behind them after everyone was helped out, it was thought all were accounted for."

Diane came round later in hospital with her parents waiting at her bedside.

And during her stay in hospital she had a special visit from her rescuer.

She said: "The moving and special memory for me is that the same policeman came to visit me. As it was around Easter time, he brought me a chocolate Easter Bunny.

"It was such a kind act. I did get a chance to thank him then – but I never knew his name.

"It has always been my wish to find out who he is, hear his memory of it and thank him once again for acting on his instinct and his kindness."

Diane said she would travel to Moray to meet her hero if he could be identified. She added: "I'd love to be able to say thanks and give him a chocolate Easter Bunny."

Anyone with information they think could help Diane can call the Northern Scot on 01343 548777 or email newsdesk@northernscot.co.uk.

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