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Cyclist died after falling into storm drain, inquest hears

Coroner calls for safety barrier to be installed at junction near Christchurch

An inquest has heard that a cyclist was killed after he fell into a storm drain near Christchurch in Dorset, with a coroner calling for a safety barrier to be installed at the location.

The Advertiser & Times reports that Wilfred Breakell broke his spine in multiple places when he fell from his bike at the northbound exit of the Blackwater Junction in Hurn on 17 May last year.

He was taking to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, but died there the next day from his injuries.

The junction, just south of Bournemouth International Airport, lies next to the River Stour with a number of drainage ditches running alongside the roads there.

In an inquest in Bournemouth last month, acting area coroner for Dorset, Brendan Allen, concluded that Mr Breakell’s death was accidental, due to multiple fractures of [his] cervical spine and [a] fall from a bicycle.

In a prevention of future deaths report subsequently sent to BCP Council, which is the relevant highways authority, he said: “The incident occurred at the northbound exit, which, at the time, had recently been refurbished.

“There was no barrier between the highway and the storm drain, which is lined with concrete paving slabs.

“Mr Breakell appears to have fallen into the storm drain and landed on one of the concrete paving slabs, resulting in the significant injuries that led to his death.”

Outlining his concerns, the coroner said: “Although there is now wooden fencing that runs from the end of the paved footpath in a northerly direction (adjacent to the pedestrian crossing), there is still no barrier between the highway and the storm drain where there is no paved area; that is, from the start of the exit from the A338 to the paved footpath adjacent to the pedestrian crossing.

“The evidence I heard at the Inquest from the investigating police officer is that cyclists use the A338 and the Blackwater Junction exit.

“There remains a risk that if a cyclist left the paved highway for any reason, he or she would be at risk of falling into the storm drain. In addition, if a vehicle lost control at the exit, that vehicle is at risk of leaving the highway and falling into the storm drain.

“A barrier between the highway and the storm drain would reduce that risk,” he added.

The council, which has confirmed receipt of the letter and says it is looking into the issues raise, has until 15 July to respond with “details of action taken or proposed to be taken, setting out the timetable for action,” or to “explain why no action is proposed.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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