A FORMER Helensburgh pilot is sharing the harrowing story of how he lost his entire family in a crash - and lost faith in the justice system as a result.

Former RAF and Concorde pilot Alan Atkinson was living in the town when he took his family on holiday to Florida in 1981.

But a driver reversed in front of the family's rental car on February 17, 1981 and killed Alan's wife and his 11-year-old son and twin eight-year-old daughters - in a wetland canal in the Everglades.

Now, "The Innocent and the Beautiful" recounts the crash and Alan's fight with the Florida justice system for answers.

The 80-year-old told the Advertiser: "It was originally called 'Stand Firm'. It's not about how I carried on, it's about how great my family were."

Helensburgh Advertiser:

Wife Adrienne and his children; Nigel, Anna-Jane and Lucy-Claire, are still fondly remembered in Helensburgh.

The Nigel Atkinson Trophy is awarded by Helensburgh Amateur Swimming Club at each age group to swimmers who have excelled. The family were all involved in the club and Nigel had won trophies before he died.

And the winning house of Hermitage Primary's annual sports day gets the Anna-Jane and Lucy-Claire Atkinson Memorial Sports Trophy.

Then Hermitage Primary head teacher Mrs Catriona Gorton said after the tragedy in 1981: "Many of the children were crying, particularly Nigel's fellow pupils in Primary 7. We are trying to keep them occupied with practical things to do as much as possible.

"They were delightful children, quiet, shy but charming, and very popular with all their classmates. I am sure they would have done very well, as they were bright, worked hard and were full of life."

Helensburgh Advertiser:

Adrienne worked at Strathclyde Regional Council and was involved with the Old and St Andrew's Church playgroup and the West Dunbartonshire Pre-school Playgroups Association, also singing with the Dorian Choir.

Originally from Kent, after flying for the RAF, Alan moved his family to Firlands, Upper Colquhoun Street, Helensburgh, when he was flying with BA from Glasgow.

In his book, Alan recounts that the family had been planning a Caribbean cruise after selling their house to move Alan to a new posting from Gatwick.

But their flight was delayed due to fog so they instead went to Florida for a few days.

When they were driving back to the airport to leave the state, a driver backed into them.

And Alan writes that he faced "inhumane silence" from the Miami justice system, who failed to answer where the rusty car came from that reversed into the Atkinsons without lights. Alan said they didn't ask how the accident happened or what was in the can of drink in the driver's hand.

Alan said answers should have come through the justice system but he was denied "that basic human right".

The book recounts how he returned to Florida four times despite never wanting to see it again. He wanted a prosecution from prosecutors and the then Miami State Attorney, Janet Reno. She would later go on to become the attorney general for the United States under Bill Clinton.

But he never got answers for the death of his family.

Alan said: ‘My book starkly depicts the frailties of life, and shines a light on how difficult it is to get justice in the Land of the Free, without the backing of a very expensive set of lawyers or of an army of television cameras."

Alan now lives in West Sussex with his partner Liz.

Broadcaster John Stapleton said of the book: "It’s a harrowing account of a devastating family tragedy and one man’s fight for justice against the insensitivity and injustice of officialdom. Guaranteed to make your blood boil." 

The Innocent and the Beautiful is published by The Conrad Press.