Burbage army man's pot hole death was accidental

Army captain Jonathan Allen died when he fell off his bike into the path of an articulated lorry while trying to avoid a huge water-filled pothole, an inquest has heard.

The hearing in Salisbury last Thursday heard that Captain Allen, 29, the adjutant of 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers who lived in Burbage, was killed instantly of serious head injuries in the incident on the evening of March 24 this year.

Wiltshire assistant deputy coroner Ian Singleton read from a statement from Capt Allen's girlfriend, Kathleen Curling.

Miss Curling said Capt Allen often worked late at the barracks in Tidworth and had taken to cycling to and from work as he was concerned about his levels of fitness.

He had only recently resumed cycling to work after the harsh winter weather.

She said Capt Allen hated cycling. He said it was dangerous because of the potholes that had developed during the bad weather.

On the night of the crash Capt Allen texted her to say he was on his way home, so she started cooking dinner and ran him a bath.

But when he didn't turn up when expected she began to get angry and then deeply concerned. She drove along his route home and came upon the incident.

A police officer told her what had happened.

She said: "The roads in Wiltshire are worse than in neighbouring counties."

The driver of the lorry, Stephen Wall, was present at the inquest, but Mr Singleton read from his statement.

Mr Wall had been a lorry driver for 35 years and had been working for Robert Wiseman Dairies, the owners of the lorry, since April 2001.

On the day of the incident he had driven a load of cream and milk to the depot at Solstice Park, Amesbury, and was returning with an empty lorry to the depot at Droitwich in the West Midlands.

Just past the Leckford crossroads on the A338 between Tidworth and Collingbourne Ducis he saw the rear light of a pedal cycle.

It was raining quite heavily by this time, it was dark and the roads were wet.

Mr Wall signalled to pull out to overtake the bicycle but just as he was about to overtake he saw Capt Allen look over his right shoulder.

He said: "We made eye contact and he seemed to be surprised to see me there. Then he appeared to be falling sideways.

"I lost sight of him and then felt a bump."

Mr Singleton heard evidence that a pothole at the location had been reported to Wiltshire Council's Clarence hotline on March 2.

But Peter Hanson, the divisional highways manager, said the pothole was not big enough to come within the priorities for immediate attention.

The road had also had a safety inspection a week before Capt Allen's death but again highways officers did not consider the pothole serious enough to warrant immediate repair.

However, the pothole was repaired within two days of the incident.

PC James Trafford of the serious collision investigation team had visited the site within 20 minutes of the crash and then again in daylight.

He said that the area where the pothole was had been repaired but had deteriorated and was six centimetres deep - over two inches - at its worst.

To make things worse, a nearby drain was clogged and this had resulted in a pooling around the area.

He estimated that Capt Allen would have been cycling at just under 20mph and would have had just over two seconds to react to seeing the pool in front of him.

There was a skid mark on the road to indicate that Capt Allen had tried to avoid hitting the pothole but had had insufficient time to react.

He said he couldn't say whether Capt Allen had hit the pothole or fallen off the bike before that. He was able to say categorically that Capt Allen was on the ground when the lorry hit him.

He added that both Capt Allen's bike and Mr Wall's lorry were both in perfect working order.

In bringing in a verdict of accidental death, Mr Singleton said: "Captain Allen would have had insufficient time to take evasive action and there was nothing the lorry driver could do to avoid the collision."

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