Accidental death verdict on rider who died after Fenland race track collision

A MOTOCROSS rider has described the moment he collided with another contestant in a fatal accident at a Fenland race track.

David Bajic saw Thomas Smith fall from his machine in front of him soon after a race began – and he collided with the 32-year-old rider as he was trying to get up.

Mr Bajic told an inquest jury: “I was just aware he lost control of the bike, he fell right in front of me.

“I remember hitting the man with my bike and then I hit his bike. I fell off my bike and went back to him straight away. He was gasping for air and I shouted for a marshal.”

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death at the end of a two-hour hearing at Huntingdon Law Courts.

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In the witness box, Mr Bajic said there was no contact between the two machines before Mr Smith fell at Mepal Moto Park and he had not been jostled by another other rider.

Mr Smith’s trousers had been left with a tyre mark, suggesting that Mr Bajic’s machine went over him during the accident.

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Race track paramedics, police and the air ambulance were all called in when the race track put its serious incident procedure into force after the accident, and racing was abandoned. Mr Smith never regained consciousness.

Paramedics tried to revive Mr Smith in a prolonged and vigorous resuscitation attempt, but he was pronounced dead at the race track just after 1.30pm on January 15.

A post mortem showed that Mr Smith, who lived in Medway Road, Crawley, died from a heart injury that caused bleeding into his chest.

The nine-strong jury heard that Mr Smith was racing his yellow Yamaha machine in the GT Tsunami Winter Championship adult race against 39 other competitors when his machine became wedged in sand, and fell over.

A statement from vehicle examiner Martin Key said Mr Smith’s machine was not damaged; it was well maintained and had no faults or defects that contributed to his loss of control.

Deputy clerk to the course, Peter Ingram said all motorcycles and protective equipment had been checked.

A statement from accident eye witness Kevin Scarff said Mr Smith got into difficulty just after the race began. “His front wheel dug into the thick sand,” he said. “His bike came down on top of him and he went to push the bike off, and another rider came around the bend and went straight into him.” He estimated that the bikes were travelling at 20 or 30mph.

The race track belongs to Fenland Resource Management Ltd, and is run by Andrew Villis and Neil Bowers. Neither man attended the inquest, but Mr Villis’ statement described how he had checked the track by riding around it on a tractor six times earlier in the day, and he was satisfied it was safe.

Mr Bowers had acted as a marshal at the British Schoolboy Motorcycle Association event. He had put up the first aid flag and saw Mr Villis run to the scene.

Clerk of the course, Martin Beadle, said the Mepal Moto Park was one of the safest tracks in the area.

Dawn Sadler, a senior environmental health officer with Fenland District Council, had conducted an investigation and from the witness box told the inquest: “No steps could have been taken to stop this accident occurring.

“Mr Smith fell off his bike in front of David Bajic, and Mr Bajic had insufficient time to take any avoiding action.

“We are satisfied from the witness statements that checks had been made and the track had been deemed safe to ride on.”

Summing up the evidence for the jury, coroner William Morris said: “It seems that Mr Smith had just gone round, or was going round, the first corner and somehow lost control of his machine.

“There is a supposition that he was jostled, but that does not fit with Mr Bajic’s evidence.

“Somehow or other, control of the machine was lost. You may feel the forks turned in the surface of the track and caused him to lose control. He went down with his machine and he was then struck by the following rider, the unfortunate David Bajic.

“From the marks, it seems likely that one of the wheels of Mr Bajic’s machine went over Mr Smith.

“Sadly, and in spite of prompt medical help, Thomas Smith’s life could not be saved and he died at the scene.

“This is not a fault finding exercise, and it is right to say that you should consider that Mr Bajic was not at fault in any way in this very sad matter.”

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