Jury retires to decide verdict on death of off-duty policeman during Portsmouth cycle race
An inquest jury has retired to consider its verdict into the death of a policeman who was killed after a high speed multi-bike race pile-up.
PC Richard Phillips-Schofield died after he was involved in a collision at the Mountbatten Centre velodrome on March 9, 2014.
The 33-year old suffered severe head and chest injuries and was pronounced brain dead two days later at Queen Alexandra hospital on March 11.
In summing up, Coroner David Horsley told jurors at Portsmouth Coroner’s Court to consider an accidental death.
‘Richard died as a result of injuries sustained due to coming into contact at speed with an unyielding object after falling from his cycle,’ he suggested as a conclusion.
The coroner said it was not known exactly what happened as racers sped up for the final lap. ‘It was not a normal pattern of race with riders bunched up. What happened next cannot be clearly described as no one saw exactly what happened,’ he said.
Earlier in the inquest, Richard’s dad Frederick Phillips-Schofield said he feared the accident was serious after seeing the crash.
‘I saw a large group of cyclists going at a hell of a pace before seeing bikes going through the air,’ he said.
‘I jumped onto the track and raced over and saw Richard with his number 16 on back. He was badly hurt.
‘There were a few people around him but I couldn’t see any first aid or tell who was taking control. A lady put Richard’s head under her fleece and someone asked Richard to squeeze his hand.
‘He was groaning and couldn’t focus. Blood was coming out of his mouth and I couldn’t hear what he was saying.’
The inquest heard how Richard - a four-time national mountain bike champion who had risen to eighth in the world rankings - was caught up in the carnage as riders jockeyed for position after the bell for the final lap.
Questions over the safety of the Mountbatten Centre were put to the director of British Cycling John Clay and race organiser Tim Knight of Racing Club Omega over the number of riders on the track and the fencing near where the accident happened.
‘There was no excuse for an unsafe and dangerous track,’ PC Phillips-Schofield’s family barrister David Haines said. ‘The person on the day wasn’t suitable to carry out the risk assessment.’
But Mr Clay said: ‘No one identified the barrier as dangerous. The parameter fence was deemed appropriate at the time.’
Referring to the race size, Mr Clay added ‘there’s no reason to believe the field size was unreasonable’ before conceding the ‘sport can be hazardous’.
PC Phillips-Schofield, who lived in Southampton, was stationed at Bitterne police station and had been a policeman in Hampshire for 10 years.