Death of biker near Rowlands Castle was an accident, rules coroner

Joe Butland
Joe Butland
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A MOTORCYCLIST died after colliding with a broken-down car and then an oncoming vehicle in a tragic accident, a coroner ruled.

Coroner David Horsley said Joe Butland’s death was the result of ‘three people going about their everyday lives’ who came together at a single moment in time with tragic consequences. A few seconds either way for any of the individuals involved and the dad-of-one may still be alive today, he said.

The inquest at Portsmouth Guildhall was told 25-year-old Joe was on his way home from work on his Kawasaki motorbike at Comley Hill – a country road between Rowlands Castle and Emsworth – when the crash happened at 4.05pm on September 28 last year.

Andrew Day, a farrier from Woodmancote, near Emsworth, was in the road a few feet ahead of his broken-down Range Rover, which had run out of petrol just after a sharp bend.

The car was in the southbound lane with its hazard warning lights on and Mr Day was waving his arms around to warn oncoming traffic.

He ran down to the beginning of the bend and was able to warn two cars so they were able to swerve past his 4x4 on the 40mph stretch.

He went back to refuel his car, but then heard a motorcycle coming and ran back down to the bend, the inquest heard.

Mr Day said: ‘I jumped into the grass verge. He was basically hurtling straight towards me.’

Mr Day said the Range Rover, bought a month prior to the accident, had been showing some electrical faults, but nothing untoward. He said no warning light had come on to say the car needed refuelling.

Meanwhile, Emma Gittins was driving a Nissan Qashqai in the northbound lane with her one-year-old baby, who she was driving around so he could have a nap.

The inquest heard Joe’s motorbike clipped the Range Rover and crashed into the Nissan, throwing Joe off his bike.

Joe was knocked unconscious and died shortly later at the scene from multiple injuries, the inquest was told.

Mrs Gittins said: ‘He appeared in front of me – like he came out of nowhere.’

Other witnesses said they heard ‘an explosion of debris’.

Forensic investigator PC Ed Wilson said it was his opinion that Joe was travelling over 40mph because of the amount of damage to the motorcycle. However, this could not be scientifically proven.

Mr Horsley said speed was not the most important factor.

‘It was the unexpected coming together of these three people and these three vehicles,’ he said. ‘What’s certain is his (Joe’s) reaction to the hazard did not come until it was too late for him.’

He said everyone was ‘simply in the wrong place at the wrong time’ and recorded the death as an accident.

Mr Horsley will write to Hampshire County Council to ensure that planned safety improvements – including repainting and clearing vegetation – are done as soon as possible at Comley Hill.

‘Joe will always be a legend’ – family want to move forward

JOE Butland’s family said getting the answers they needed had come as a relief.

Joe’s mum Lorraine Butland, of Adderbury Avenue, Emsworth, said: ‘It’s a relief. It’s been such a strain.

‘It does not bring him back. I just want to be able to grieve now.’

Joe’s dad, Paul Butland, 55, from Hilsea, said he will always question why the Range Rover, which had travelled from Clanfield, did not refuel at the petrol station in Rowlands Castle.

Joe’s partner Chloe Jacobs, 23, of Edgell Road, Westbourne, said Joe would always be ‘a legend’.