Family to take legal action against bike shop after teenage boy killed when his front brake failed

14-year-old had bike checked over at repair shop on the morning of his death

by Sarah Barth   May 4, 2013  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

A famly is threatening legal action after a teenage boy was killed following what the Coroner at his inquest described as the "catastrophic failure" of the front brake on his bicycle.

Eyewitnesses described hearing 14 year old Kadian Harding screaming as he went down a path at a speed of between 25mph and 30mph desperately trying to slow the bike down before hitting a van, on July 25 last year on the A4 at Clatford, near Marlborough.

David Ridley, coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon, said that he would be writing to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to highlight the need for brake safety on bicycles and see if anything could be learned from the tragedy.

Mr Ridley recorded a narrative verdict at the inquest in Salisbury, saying the front brake suffered a "complete catastrophic failure" due to the pinch bolt "more likely than not, on the front yoke not being sufficiently tight" and causing the cantilever not to function at all.

In a statement following the coroner's verdict Sally Moore, of legal firm, Leigh Day & Co, confirmed that the Harding family would be taking legal action against the Acceler8 bike shop to which Kadian had taken his bike to have it checked over prior to the fatal ride.

"The evidence from the police vehicle examiner involved in this case was clear that Kadian's death was caused by the failure of both front and back brakes.   The coroner also agreed that there had been catastrophic failure of the front brake and that the back brake was not working sufficiently so as to stop the bicycle in an emergency,  therefore the family will be pursuing legal action against Acceler8."

The Inquest took evidence from two experts, David Price a police forensic accident investigator and Chris Juden, the CTC's Senior Technical Officer who both concluded that the accident was caused by the failure of the front brake of Kadian's bike which in turn was caused by the brake cable slipping because the pinch bolt had not been done up tightly enough. Both also concluded that it was not possible to say how well the rear brake had been working before the crash.

According to Malboroughnewsonline in its report of the proceedings, on the day of his death, Kadian took his bike, a Surly Long Haul Trucker, to Philip Birkett, owner of Acceler8 bike shop in Marlborough, as his father had told him to have the brakes looked at.

Kadian's father Thomas said: "I specifically said 'we are really concerned about the brakes. You must get the front and back brakes looked at.'

"He said they looked over all the brakes and replaced a cable. I didn't have a go [on the bike] but I did try both front and back brakes.

"I noticed they were much firmer. I noticed the pads were now about 1mm apart."

Mr Harding, told the coroner, that the day before Kadian died, in his opinion, there was "no danger of a catastrophic failure".

"From my narrative he would not have had the problems he had on the Wednesday if he had not gone to the bike shop," he said.

In his evidence Mr Birkett told the court that Kadian had asked him to look over the the gears and rear brake but that nothing specific had been said about the brakes - had the boy raised concerns about the brakes he would have suggested the bike stay longer in the shop, he told the court. According to Mr Birkett the gears were adjusted because they were ticking and a frayed rear gear cable was replaced.

 "I stand by my work and everything I did was correct. When that bike left the shop it was in a perfectly safe condition," he told the court.

Under cross examination by the family's legal representative Mr Birkett said he did not hold any qualifications for repairing bicycles “I have never felt the need to do so,” he said.  “I feel comfortable with my abilities.” He denied making any adjustments to either the front or rear brakes on Kadian's bicycle.

 

8 user comments

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Sticky wicket this one especially after the comment by the dad confirming the brakes were firmer.

Who knows what happened between the bike shop and the accident.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2714 posts]
4th May 2013 - 14:19

2 Likes

Poor kid - poor family. What a terrible thing to happen.

posted by RuthF28 [92 posts]
4th May 2013 - 14:24

1 Like

I think you may have misquoted the coroners verdict. According to this article:
http://www.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/news/10394511.Family_could_sue_over_cyc...

more likely than not being sufficiently tight

should read effectively

"more likely than not, not being sufficiently tight"

which makes more sense.

The article has a more complete report of what the coroner said.

posted by horizontal dropout [148 posts]
4th May 2013 - 14:52

1 Like

How dreadful for the family.
The legal challenge does seem odd. Who is getting sued? If the bike shop did the job correctly, and the dad agreed that the brakes were "firmer", I wonder where the case is going to go? In the end we are all personally responsible for our machines, and in the case of a minor, I guess a responsible adult. But you can't tell what happens when a youngster goes out, if they decide to make any adjustments, or if a component fails/is not fitted/secured correctly, and did not show until the moment before the tragedy.

Doc

posted by doc [167 posts]
4th May 2013 - 14:56

2 Likes

Well, this could have been me 40 years ago. I was out with a friend (we were both about 14) having a lovely ride and we came to a 1 in 5 hill we'd never been down and dared each other to go down 'no brakes'. We did so and then came to a tight right-hander at about 30-35 mph with a brick wall as our destination if we didn't get round it. He went out to the right side of the road. I decided to use my brakes but my front cable came out of the lever (I knew it was a bit dodgy but hadn't done anything about it). Luckily my back brake did work, my back wheel came round and I went down on the ground not into a wall. Cut up all my clothes, thank god I had a coat on (can't have been too warm I suppose- I'm sure it was the summer) and was able to ride the bike back home about 10 miles after a lorry that was about 100 yards down the road when my friend went out to the right took us both a few miles. Either one of us could have died.

My condolences to the family.

posted by Alan Tullett [1439 posts]
4th May 2013 - 15:37

3 Likes

In the end we are all personally responsible for our machines, and in the case of a minor, I guess a responsible adult.

That would be why they take the bike to a shop though. You'd expect that the shop would have been able to tighten up a pinch bolt. I have had car brakes fail after a repair and it's not like I have the knowledge to check the garage's work either.

That said, it's impossible to know if the kid or his dad decided to adjust things afterwards. We've all made a mistake with stuff like that from time to time but it doesn't cause this sort of accident.

posted by atlaz [154 posts]
6th May 2013 - 10:47

2 Likes

Er...what about the back brake?

The shop owner might rightly be in a pile of worry offering a safety-of-life service for reward for which he holds no qualification...

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [478 posts]
7th May 2013 - 10:03

2 Likes

Forensically there may have been detail which a brief report may not cover. A partly gripping pinch bolt will pull through when a massive pull is exerted but otherwise will work the brakes. Some evidence of this will be in the markings on the cable etc. This could be a seriously technical case.

I had a similar event when a bike shop trued my front wheel and left the straddle wire disconnected. Very hard to stamp back against the 100" gear on the back wheel when the lights changed on me.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [481 posts]
7th May 2013 - 16:20

1 Like