A charity motorbike ride, which tragically led to the death of a biker and injuries to his wife and three other riders, could have been caused by an under inflated tyre or a cardiac event.

Nigel Charnock, of Rockbere, was run over by a bike which had been following him during the Devon Air Ambulance Motorcycle charity convoy on July 15, 2018, on the A386 near Hatherleigh.

The collision occurred when the 56-year-old lost control of his bike after exiting a right hand bend at low speed, an inquest at Exeter’s County Hall heard today. He died at the scene. His wife Wendy, who had been a passenger on the bike, was taken by air ambulance to hospital with serious injuries which she survived.

The annual event, called the Ride Out, had been running successfully since 2005. It attracts around 1,000 participants, and is graded as a ‘low risk event’. Due to its popularity, riders set off from two different locations and the final destination is Teignmouth seafront.

Nigel Charnock had not had a bike accident in 40 years

Nigel Charnock had not had a bike accident in 40 years

 

Mrs Charnock told in a statement how her husband had enjoyed a love of bikes from a young age and had got back into riding again after they married in 1999. She described how it had become an ‘important social activity’ for them both and how they would go for rides or on charity ride outs with friends most weekends.

She said: “I felt very safe with him while riding. He was cautious and never took risks.”

She recalled the day before the Ride Out, Mr Charnock had checked over his beloved Triumph Rocket 22. On the day of the event they set off from Trago Mills in Newton Abbot at 10.30am and were 28 miles into the journey when tragedy struck.

She said: “I don’t remember much about the incident,” and continued, “I don’t know what caused us to fall from the motorcycle. My next memory is having fallen from the motorcycle and being in the road in considerable pain.

“When I asked a friend where Nigel was they said he had not made it. It did not register. It was some time before I came to terms with it… and that I survived.”

Nigel and Wendy Charnock

Nigel and Wendy Charnock

Witness evidence was heard from William Wrench, a member of the Harley Owners Group, who had been riding behind Mr Charnock, an industrial radiographer.

He told in a statement how he had been following him for many miles, and the convoy was travelling at around 40mph along the 60mph stretch of road.

Mr Wrench said: “I could not fault his handling of the bike in any way or anyone else’s before the accident.”

However, when they approached a right hand bend he saw Mr Charnock lose control of his bike.

He said: “Suddenly, and without warning, I saw the Triumph rocking in front of me and go off line.”

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He continued: “It was a sign of possible panic or something going wrong. It immediately took me by total surprise when it crashed into the left of the carriageway.”

He described seeing the rider and passenger coming off the bike and having no escape route, he collided with Mr Charnock.

“I felt two sickening bumps,” he said and told how his bike then slide into a hedge. “I’m not sure what point I fell off the bike. I was winded, dazed and in pain.”

Reflecting over the incident he said he did not know what had caused Mr Charnock to be unable to negotiate the bend and said: “I had no space time to react differently than I did.”

Travelling behind Mr Wrench in the convoy was experienced motorcyclist Francis Bryce who had been riding his Yahama with his wife Julie on the back.

 

Recalling the crash, he said in a statement: “It all happened in a fraction of second. I slammed on my brakes and could feel the wheel slide away. I was aware of Julie coming off the bike.”

He continued: “I was left with the bike on top of me. I kicked it off and crawled to where Julie was. She was calling out my name. My total focus was on her and that she had been hurt.”

Mr Wrench concluded he has seen nothing which could have caused the collision. An ambulance was called at around 11.30am and arrived 35 minutes later.

Details of Mr Chanock’s medical history were read out during the inquest and his GP reported he had well controlled high blood pressure, and had recently complained of shoulder pain.

A post mortem examination confirmed the cause of his death was multiple injuries. Forensic pathologist Dr Deborah Cook said it was possible he had suffered a medical episode which caused him not to take the bend as anticipated.

He was found to have had abnormally enlarged adrenal glands which can lead to problems with the heart, and had some thickening of the heart wall.

 

She said:  “He possibly had a sudden electric blip within that thickened wall causing him to faint or to experience a very brief episode of chest pain that caused him to lose control of his bike.

“It remains a possibility if there is no other explanation how this fall from the bike came to occur.”

She added: “He had no history of faints or collapses so it could have been the first time he experienced the problem.”

Another possible scenario was provided by PC Melissa Inness, a forensic collision investigator who concluded he either lost control or applied emergency brakes as he was exiting the bend.

She told the inquest how an examination of the bike found a screw embedded into the rear tyre causing a slow puncture which would have occurred before the day of the charity bike ride.

Describing what affect it would have had, she said: “It would make the handling of a bike quite heavy and stiff and bit more reluctant to turn, and slightly more exaggerated with a passenger.”

 

She concluded the crash could possibly have been as result of the under inflated  tyre as he was exiting the bend, but that a cardiac event could not be excluded.

She said: “I am unable to say which one was more probable.”

Recording a conclusion of road traffic collision, coroner Philip Spinney said: “The experienced motorcyclist and evidence revealed two possible explanations as to why he may have lost control of his motorcycle that day. The first is due to an under inflated tyre which could have cause instability, and the second is medical event. However, from the evidence it is not possible to rule out either of these possibilities.”

Paying tribute to her husband after his death, Mrs Charnock, who was hospitalised for two months for injuries including a shattered pelvis, six broken ribs, two collar bone fractures, and a collapsed lung, said: “His death has left a big hole in my life because he is irreplaceable.

“He was the kindest and sweetest man. He was very quiet but he was a good man and it seems so unfair he has gone. He really was so well thought of by so many people.”

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