Wiltshire

Wiltshire army officer died avoiding pothole

Capt Jonathan Allen
Image caption Capt Allen had completed two tours in Afghanistan

An army officer from Wiltshire who had served in Afghanistan died trying to avoid a pothole while cycling in Wiltshire, an inquest has found.

Capt Jonathan Allen, 29, was riding in the rain and dark on the A338 near Tidworth when he was in a collision with a lorry on 24 March.

The pothole had been reported to Wiltshire Council three weeks earlier and inspected, the hearing was told.

The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Capt Allen, an adjutant in the 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, had completed two tours in Afghanistan.

The hearing, at Wiltshire Coroner's Court, Salisbury, heard that under the council's criteria, the pothole was 0.2in (5mm) too shallow and not wide enough to be repaired within seven days.

The hole was one of a series stretching 65.6ft (20m) at the Leckford crossroads, the hearing was told.

Capt Allen suffered serious head injuries in the collision, which happened about eight miles from his home in Burbage.

Ian Singleton, deputy assistant Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner, said: "I believe that on the balance of probabilities, Jonathan did not appreciate his proximity to the degraded road surface and as a result of this he fell from his bicycle into the path of an articulated lorry."

'Many potholes'

Accident investigator Pc James Trafford told the hearing that Capt Allen appeared to have slammed on his rear brake just before reaching the pothole.

He fell into the path of the lorry, and the driver Stephen Wall could not have expected or avoided the collision, he said.

Rosanna Curling, Capt Allen's girlfriend, said in a statement that he "hated" cycling from the barracks in Tidworth to his house.

She said: "He was fine in the summer but hated it when it was dark and complained about the many potholes."

She said Capt Allen often cycled along the road, and must have been aware of the pothole.

Peter Hanson, Wiltshire Council's highways manager, said the A338 was inspected once a month.

He told the hearing the last inspection was on 17 March and no defects were found where the crash happened.

He added that adverse winter weather could have caused the area to deteriorate within 24 hours.

A member of the public reported the pothole on 2 March, he said.

'Not deep enough'

Mr Hanson said the hole was inspected but was not considered deep enough to repair and a note was made for future maintenance.

The day after Capt Allen's death, the pothole was inspected again and at 1.4in (35mm), was still not considered deep enough, he said.

He said it needed to be 1.6in (40mm) to be repaired.

The pothole was fixed two days after the accident.

Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council said in a statement: "On behalf of Wiltshire Council, I am deeply saddened by the whole incident and would like to extend our deepest sympathy to Capt Jonathan Allen's family and friends.

"I have requested that we carry out an internal investigation into our systems to ensure that Wiltshire's roads are as safe as possible."

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