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British cyclist who died on Alpe d'Huez was killed unlawfully, coroner rules

UK motorist involved already convicted of voluntary manslaughter by French court

A Surrey cyclist who died on a descent of Alpe d’Huez when he was hit by a car driven by a British tourist coming the other way was killed unlawfully, a coroner has ruled.

Joe Pether, aged 53 and from Lower Sunbury, had only taken up cycling three years earlier according to his sister, reports the Sun.

The motorist involved, John Durrant, has already been convicted by a French court of involuntary manslaughter. He was banned from driving for a year and received a 12-month suspended prison sentence.

Mr Pether had ridden the iconic climb, which will feature on the route of next year’s Tour de France, with a group of friends.

He had planned to return to the foot of the ascent via cable car, but found that the lift was not working so decided to ride back down the 21 hairpin bends.

As he led the group through a corner, the father-of-two was hit head-on by Durrant

His sister, Kay Swinbank, said: “He was a wonderful brother, son, husband and father and we miss him every day.

“Every day it’s like waking up from a horrible nightmare, but then you realise it really did happen.”

She attended Durrant’s trial and said afterwards:  “All he said the whole time was he was ‘very very sad’ and how he was a good man and how devastated he was.

“It’s like he didn’t understand how devastated we were.”

At the inquest into Mr Pether’s death, West London coroner Kally Cheema commented: “In my conclusion he died as a result of multiple injuries after being in a road traffic collision.

“We have now heard the driver was convicted after trial of involuntary homicide, manslaughter.

“It is therefore available for me to come to a conclusion of unlawful killing.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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12 comments

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Eric D | 8 years ago
0 likes

"convicted of voluntary manslaughter"

involuntary !

Proof-readers ?

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AleksT | 8 years ago
1 like

The driving ban will only apply in France, as well as the fact that the suspended sentence would only come into play if he committed further offences in France. If he stays out of France for a year then he will not be affected by the sentence. Not justice in my opinion. The French have apparently jailed uk drivers for speeding but just giving a driver a suspended sentence for killing someone and not giving any explanation as to how or why it happened is a poor decision.

RIP Joe

Avatar
efail | 8 years ago
2 likes

I cycle about 5000km a year on French roads, many of them up and down the Pyrenees. It's a myth to think that French drivers are 'perfect' in their respect for cyclists. Like in Britain, they will pass you very close, pull out across your path, cut in, and, on many occasions, you will find them on your side of the road, coming towards you, as they slice the bends and corners on mountain roads.

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Bob's Bikes | 8 years ago
1 like

So from reading this piece and the lack of info in it.......

 

Needless death of cyclist  =  one year driving ban and a very slight threat of jail time.

 

No fines no retesting

My sympathies to the family and friends of Joe Pether.

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SteppenHerring | 8 years ago
0 likes

I took my son to the Alps for his first time this year (he's 15). Being from Surrey, he was amazed at the attitude and general behaviour of the French motorists around cyclists.  He was also impressed by the landscape and that climbs can really be that long but he made it to the top of several iconic climbs (including Huez).

The awful irony of a cyclist being hundreds of miles away from the British traffic on French roads being offed by a British driver ... 

(As an aside, on the descent, if you take a right after bend 5 towards Villard Reculas then that takes you down a much nicer route and drops you at the dam at the base of the Glandon/Croix de Fer)

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gbzpto | 8 years ago
0 likes

This is very sad and i remember it happening. The decent is quite dangerous with both drivers and cyclist often cutting the corners. As an aside this article is not accurate. The tdf is not visiting alpe d'huez in 2016 and there is no cable car down to the bottom. It stops at bend 5 in Huez

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Jacobi | 8 years ago
1 like

"Plus, does the French sentence apply in england"

A UK driving licence is, in effect, an EU driving licence. If you look at the driving licences issued by EU countries you'll see they have the EU flag in the top left corner with the initials of the issuing state inside the stars.

I'm pretty sure that any ban by any EU state is enforceable in all EU states.

 

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richdirector | 8 years ago
0 likes

Was the UK driver in the car on the wrong side of the road - how did it happen? Article doesnt really give any pertinent fact apart from saying 'car driver ...head on'

 

 

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Housecathst | 8 years ago
2 likes

She attended Durrant’s trial and said afterwards:  “All he said the whole time was he was ‘very very sad’ and how he was a good man and how devastated he was. 

 

What at he is is a killer. You can't even get away from from British drivers in France!

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EricP | 8 years ago
0 likes

RIP Joe Pether.  

I don't understand  - what is an english coroner doing here?  Are there any implications of their findings with respect to the driver?

Plus, does the French sentence apply in england (unlike speeding related crimes so I hear)?

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giff77 replied to EricP | 8 years ago
2 likes
EricP wrote:

RIP Joe Pether.  

I don't understand  - what is an english coroner doing here?  Are there any implications of their findings with respect to the driver?

Plus, does the French sentence apply in england (unlike speeding related crimes so I hear)?

this was the inquest held in London in regards to Joe's death. Probably needed to satisfy probate. The coroner was able to draw his conclusion based on the outcome of the French court. I'm not sure how the sentence translates into British law. Hopefully it applies here as well. There's possibly some EU ruling that accommodates this decision. The decision by the coroner will give further weight to the family in pursuing a civil case against the motorist. After poking around for more info The Daily Mail has a better article than The Sun here's the link http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3358432/Cyclist-got-sport-50-die...

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bikeclips replied to EricP | 8 years ago
2 likes
EricP wrote:

RIP Joe Pether.  

I don't understand  - what is an english coroner doing here?  Are there any implications of their findings with respect to the driver?

Plus, does the French sentence apply in england (unlike speeding related crimes so I hear)?

 

Every British death is examined by the coroner if the circumstances demand whether it occurs on British soil or abroad. The coroner isn't a judge though so can't impose any sentencing etc.

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