Coroner says death of boxing champ Gary Mason while cycling was due to accident or misadventure

Court hears driver involved failed eye test on day of incident and may have been speeding and ignored road markings

by Simon_MacMichael   February 29, 2012  

Gavel

A coroner has recorded a verdict of accident or misadventure regarding the death of Gary Mason, the former British heavyweight boxer killed when he was struck by a van while riding his bike in January last year. No charges have ever been brought against the driver involved, and Mason’s family are now considering bringing a private action against him.

The former boxer, aged 48, died from multiple injuries received in the incident at the junction of Woodcote Road and Sandy Lane South in Wallington in the London Borough of Sutton, reports the Daily Mail.

The driver of the vehicle involved, 44-year-old Piero Zanelli of Purley, Surrey, failed a police eye test on the day of the incident, although he was subsequently assessed as fit to drive by an optician.

In line with standard procedures, he was arrested at the scene on suspicion of causing death by careless driving, but no charges followed.

Croydon Coroner’s Court heard that it was common for motorists to cut across hazard lines marked Woodcote Road as they turned right into Sandy Lane South, and Zanelli, who used the road regularly, admitted that he did so “eight times out of ten” but was unable to remember whether that had happened on the day in question.

Collision investigators were unable to establish the speed of his vehicle at the time of the incident with any certainty, putting it between 25mph and 48mph.

It was also unclear whether Mason was on his bike or pushing it when the incident happened at approximately 6am on the morning of 6 January, although the court was told he was wearing dark clothing and his bike did not have a front light and only a dim rear one.

Describing the incident, Zanelli said: “I just looked ahead, saw there wasn’t any traffic coming down and that was it, there was just a thump on the windscreen.

“I drove on but then I turned round and came back. I stopped and I was in a sort of shock, I couldn’t understand it and then I turned round and looked again. I was sort of scared.

“It was so all in one go,” he continued. “I didn’t see anybody, there wasn’t anything on my bonnet, I didn’t see anybody it was just a thump and the windscreen shattered. It was all in the moment, all in one go, it could have been anything.”

Coroner Roy Palmer recorded a verdict of death due to accident or misadventure.

Following the hearing, Mason’s sister Paulette Stewart said that the family planned to pursue its own legal action against Zanelli, adding: “After 13 months we have finally heard the evidence gathered by the police as part of their investigation and we have heard Mr Zanelli give evidence in person.

“It is clear to the family that Mr Zanelli was driving at excessive speed, cut the corner of the junction and failed an eye test on the morning of the fatal collision.

“Gary was a wonderful man and father well loved by all and was taken from us through the reckless driving of Mr Zanelli. We as a family will never get over Gary’s death which in our view was clearly avoidable.”

At the time of his death, Mason, who only lost one fight in 38 professional fights, a British and European title decider against Lennox Lewis, was planning to launch a therapeutic drumming charity.

Speaking after the inquest, his friend Clive Thompson said: “He was an incredible person, a very good guy, kind hearted. He cared for people and he would have cared how he [Zanelli] felt in there today, he would have felt for him deeply.

“Gary would forgive that guy for what he did when not many people could. When he died he was out cycling to get fit because he had just got a grant to start his charity.”

18 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Yeah I have that instant reaction to my windscreen breaking as well just keep on driving??? What do you have to do to get charged for killing someone with a vehicle?? Since when does an Optician overrule the Police “he didn’t realise he had broken into the wrong house and emptied all the contents because he couldn’t see the house number M’Lud!”. What a joke.

cidermart's picture

posted by cidermart [468 posts]
29th February 2012 - 13:28

3 Likes

Wouldn't some better police road incident reconstruction specialists be able to pinpoint what really happened - there is usually enough evidence to be more scientific about these incidents. Also what a joke to call it accident or misadventure - it was an road traffic incident and the drivers actions cannot be judged as accidental surely?

posted by tomascjenkins [34 posts]
29th February 2012 - 13:31

4 Likes

Once again we see the British Justice System for the joke it is. Cindermart has summed it up perfectly. It seems that the Police and CPS care about cyclists road safety in the same way a Paedophile cares about child welfare!!

Angelfishsolo's picture

posted by Angelfishsolo [116 posts]
29th February 2012 - 13:31

10 Likes

Having looked at the junction where this occured, one has to ask why Mr mason was not seen, regardless of what he was wearing,how well lit his bike or if he was even on it. That is not an accident.

posted by Dave Escandell [4 posts]
29th February 2012 - 13:45

2 Likes

Unbelievable. If ever a clear example were needed of why presumed liability makes sense, surely this is it.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [432 posts]
29th February 2012 - 13:47

4 Likes

Smashed windscreen at 25 mph, come on,can't believe the police didn't pursue this. perhaps the CPS need an eye test as well.

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1005 posts]
29th February 2012 - 14:12

3 Likes

It does beg the question of why charges were dropped. If the driver failed an eye test and was not wearing suitable glasses or contact lenses then this in itself is an offence, never mind questions over whether the vehicle was speeding or cut the corner.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2297 posts]
29th February 2012 - 14:31

4 Likes

Loud thump, windscreen smashed yet he drove on, not being sure of what happened?! You've ***ing hit something you moron! Never mind eyesight or speed, if you can't work out that the loud thump and breaking glass means you've hit an object, you really shouldn't be allowed out unsupervised in public, never mind driving.

The "sentences" handed down to drivers would be laughable if it wasn't actually true. 3 points and a fine, off you go now. Or catching a DQ'd drievr and banning them from driving again - what's that about?! DQ'ing them hasn't stopped them driving, perhaps some jail time might be an idea?

posted by crazy-legs [561 posts]
29th February 2012 - 15:55

3 Likes

Look on the wall of any factory or workshop up and down the land, and you will see a poster saying

"Safety is no Accident".

Surely what applies to a factory applies to any operator of machinery? All road incidents are due one way or another to driver error, none are truly accidents.

posted by Paul M [325 posts]
29th February 2012 - 16:15

4 Likes

Also a reminder to cyclists - lights and hi-vis. Being right post-mortem is scant comfort.

posted by maxburgoyne [24 posts]
29th February 2012 - 16:20

6 Likes

OldRidgeback wrote:
It does beg the question of why charges were dropped. If the driver failed an eye test and was not wearing suitable glasses or contact lenses then this in itself is an offence, never mind questions over whether the vehicle was speeding or cut the corner.

Note though that the subsequent test under clinical conditions carried out by a independent qualified optician is the relevant one for the question of fitness to drive with uncorrected vision; the roadside one carried out by police on the day isn't.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8456 posts]
29th February 2012 - 16:29

3 Likes

How has no one realised the road junction layout is also at fault. Theyve admitted people regularly cut the junction over the hazzard lines which actually dont appear to be either closed or open hazards (2 sides open, one side closed).
Clearly this is a risk to traffic turning right from Sandy Lane onto Woodcote Rd in a Nrthly direction.
This junction is a clear fault of design and needs islands to be placed on this hazard box. Doing so couldve saved at least one life!
Even at 30mph, drivign through this hazard box and hitting any stationary traffic would result in loss of life. If they know people regularly do this...then that is the reason for death...negligence!

posted by Farky [181 posts]
29th February 2012 - 17:50

3 Likes

maxburgoyne wrote:
Also a reminder to cyclists - lights and hi-vis. Being right post-mortem is scant comfort.

Having seen in the parliamentary debate that a cyclist with an Exposure Flare light still got hit, I think that's a diversionary tactic by the driver. If someone is driving too fast and not paying attention, nothing will stop a cyclist getting hit.

posted by paulfg42 [379 posts]
29th February 2012 - 18:50

5 Likes

maxburgoyne wrote:
Also a reminder to cyclists - lights and hi-vis. Being right post-mortem is scant comfort.

I find hi-viz isn't really effective in the dark or under streetlighting. In my experience reflectives are more beneficial but decent lights give you the best chance of being seen in low light.

I have to wonder about the kind of person continues driving after they've hit another person and carried on driving with a shattered windscreen.

If a pedestrian is crossing a side road in the dark do they need hi-viz and lights too to avoid being hit by some twat who turns without looking properly?

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2047 posts]
29th February 2012 - 18:56

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paulfg42 wrote:
maxburgoyne wrote:
Also a reminder to cyclists - lights and hi-vis. Being right post-mortem is scant comfort.
I think that's a diversionary tactic by the driver.

Although it's not 100% clear from the reports I've seen, the details re the lights etc will almost certainly have come from the collision investigator, not the driver.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8456 posts]
29th February 2012 - 20:15

4 Likes

"Sandy Lane South in Wallington in the London Borough of Croydon"

Wallington is in the London Borough of Sutton not Croydon.

posted by edd [39 posts]
1st March 2012 - 8:19

3 Likes

edd wrote:
"Sandy Lane South in Wallington in the London Borough of Croydon"

Wallington is in the London Borough of Sutton not Croydon.

Now corrected, thanks.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8456 posts]
1st March 2012 - 9:56

4 Likes

"In line with standard procedures, he was arrested at the scene on suspicion of causing death by careless driving, but no charges followed."

How can killing a cyclist be anything but careless/reckless? Unless, of course, it was on purpose. It is either 'careless' or 'reckless', are cyclists' lives so cheap that they don't warrant proper protection in the courts/law (rhetorical, I know the response)? Angry

Tripod16

posted by Tripod16 [117 posts]
1st March 2012 - 15:19

2 Likes