Inquest hears of 40mph head-on crash that killed Junior Heffernan during Severn Bridge Road Race
Accidental death conclusion in case of rider who hit car at speed during descent
A coroner has recorded a conclusion of accidental death relating to Junior Heffernan, the 23-year-old cyclist killed in March 2013 when he crashed into a car while descending at more than 40 miles an hour during the Severn Bridge Road Race, reports the Plymouth Herald.
The inquest heard that the promising young rider, who was taking part in the race for the Herbalife Leisure Lakes team, was on the wrong side of the road as he came down Vattingstone Lane near Olveston, South Gloucestershire, and was unable to react in time to avoid the collision.
The fatal incident happened on the third lap of the ten lap race, which is not held on closed roads. The inquest, held at Flax Bourton in Somerset, was told that Mr Heffernan, from Yelverton in Devon, was unable to get onto the left-hand side of the road due to other riders also tackling the descent.
The front wheel of his bike hit the car, causing him to be pitched onto its windscreen. The motorist, Nigel Thomas, told the inquest that he was driving at 15 miles an hour, while it was reported that the cyclist was riding at 46.5 miles an hour immediately before the collision.
The driver said: "I saw two cyclists come out from the group and to my side of the road. I immediately braked and the first rider looked up and moved back into his lane.
"The second rider was not going to miss my car."
Race organiser Brian O’Kelly said: "The advice is you don't cross the road, you stay on the left-hand side of the road, but it is a race – that doesn't always occur."
Motorcycle escorts were present on the race, and Richard Jarrold from its promoters, Bristol Road Club, said the weather was good, full risk assessments had been conducted, and described the state of the road surface in the approach to the crash location as "reasonable."
Terence Moore, assistant coroner, delivering his conclusion, said: "It is fairly obvious to me that, on approaching the left-hand bend at the bottom of this decline, the lead riders began to slow slightly.
“It is fairly obvious to me that they might slow because of a bend or because there is a BMW approaching.
“The effect of these lead riders slowing is a knock-on effect, compressing the peloton. With that compression, Junior and another rider were moved out into the right-hand lane.
“Junior’s line of sight in approach of that bend would have been obscured by the rider in front of him.
“He saw the car at the last moment and, realising he couldn’t pull on to the left, he tried to veer to the right quite deliberately to try to avoid a collision,” he added.