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.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.