Coroner raises concerns about gritting procedures after County Durham biker's death

CORONER'S CONCERNS: Andrew Tweddle will highlight concerns with police and council

CORONER'S CONCERNS: Andrew Tweddle will highlight concerns with police and council

First published in News
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Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter (Sedgefield)

A CORONER will raise concerns with police and council chiefs about road gritting procedures following the death of a biker on an icy road.

Andrew Tweddle will ask Durham County Council and Durham police to review the robustness of their policies in an attempt to prevent similar fatalities to that of Melvin Bandtock.

Mr Bandtock died on the B6313 at Craghead, near Stanley, County Durham, after his motorcycle hit a patch of black ice and slid into the path of a service bus just after 9am on December 28.

In the early hours of that morning police had received nine calls from the public about icy road conditions in the Stanley and Consett area but not for Craghead Lane, Sgt Rodney Taylor told an inquest into Mr Bandtock’s death.

Call handlers had referred several to the council, for a duty manager to decide whether to deploy a gritter, as was usual.

Sgt Taylor told the hearing, at Crook Civic Centre this morning (Wednesday, April 2), that a senior officer was unlikely to get involved as long as concerns were passed on to the council and acted upon.

Colin Hodgson, highways inspection and maintenance manager, said: “Over the course of that morning four gritters and a highway inspector were out checking roads and salting as necessary.”

But the stretch of road where Mr Bandtock crashed had not been treated, which Mr Hodgson said was a decision based on the weather forecast and not on budget constraints.

He said there were hoar frosts and the road temperature had not risen as quickly as predicted.

PC Kevin Kitson, a forensic collision investigator, said bus driver Lee Passmore’s account of the collision and CCTV footage from the bus showed Mr Bandtock had been riding slowly and conservatively before the accident.

He said the 55-year-old, of Annfield Plain, was a very experienced motorcyclist and it was unlikely he could do anything to avoid hitting the oncoming bus when he lost control.

Recording a verdict of accidental death Mr Tweddle, the senior coroner for County Durham and Darlington, said: “It was just two vehicles in the wrong place simultaneously and he lost his life as a result.”

Mr Tweddle said he will write to Durham County Council and Durham police because although call handlers do contact the council about incidents there appears no collation of information or involvement of a senior officer to ensure the council reacts appropriately.

He said: “If there had been a system in place, the duty manager might have had a more focused view of what was going on that morning.”

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