‘Brilliant’ son, 19, dies after combine accident with his motorbike
A teenage son has died after his motorbike collided with a combine harvester on a country road.
The fatal collision happened when 19-year-old Harry Abbey was traveling on Hollins Lane in Warrington around midday on July 21, 2021. An inquest heard the teenager suddenly hit the brakes on his Yamaha bike, leading to the accident. The boy got off his bike and straight into the path of an oncoming combine. Mr Abbey, of Warrington, was pronounced dead at the scene, Warrington Coroner’s Court heard yesterday (April 20).
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A blue Ford Fiesta, driving in front of Mr Abbey, had “suddenly” braked when the combine harvester came into view. The collision happened as a tractor – which was towing a trailer – was escorting the large combine around a bend near Watery Lane at 11.54am the MEN reports.
Mum Beverley and dad Andrew were at court, along with Mr Abbey’s three siblings. The inquest heard in response to the Ford Fiesta, he also then braked causing him to lose control of his motorcycle. During the hearing, he was told it was likely the combine operator had ‘insufficient time to avoid the collision’.
In a statement, which was read out by Cheshire Deputy Coroner Jean Harkin, Mr Abbey’s mother said he was ‘resilient, strong and had a good sense of humour’. She described their loss as “the saddest day for the family” and “the most traumatic experience I have ever had”.
In another tribute at the hearing, an emotional Ms Abbey said: “Harry was our youngest child – the baby of the family. I realize I don’t idolize Harry in death, but it’s hard to do not do it.
“I don’t know the reasons for his choices that day and I never will. I don’t want that to define him – he was fearless and brave. He lived and existed, and I’m truly grateful to him for that. Thank you for being such a brilliant son.”
The testimony was given by tractor driver Gary Cox, the MEN reports, who accompanied his colleague Christopher Booker in the combine. He said he was at “creeping” speed when he took the turn. At this point, a blue Ford Fiesta was heading towards him. He says he used hand signals and a horn to warn the vehicle to slow down.
Mr Cox told the hearing he received no reaction from the driver so he pulled over. He then saw a shadow and immediately turned around, at which point he saw the rear of the motorcycle. It was positioned as if it was going to overtake the Fiesta, according to the survey. Mr Cox’s testimony then said that the Fiesta’s brake lights came on “suddenly”.
As a result, the motorcycle also braked and the front wheel separated from the driver, according to his testimony. The bike then fell left with Mr Abbey falling the other way, Mr Cox explained.
Mr Cox said he believed the collision would not have happened if the Fiesta had not braked “suddenly”. Responding to a question from attorney Robert Jones, who represented the family, he added: “She [Fiesta driver] snapped because she saw the size of it (combine harvester).”
The Fiesta braked “quite hard” according to Mr Booker, who was driving the combine at its top speed of 12mph. He then states in his testimony that he heard a tire squeal before seeing the motorcycle slide on the floor. He veered to the left and braked, coming to a stop shortly after impact, the inquest heard. Mr. Booker said that at no time did his vehicle enter the opposite lane.
The Fiesta driver was traveling with her seven-month-old baby who slept in the back of the vehicle. In her testimony, she said that she checked her mirror, braked and moved to the left approaching the tractor to give it more space. She saw the top half of Mr Abbey in her rear-view mirror, but not the bike, remembering it was “so close to me”.
She then said that while driving around the bend, she saw the combine harvester. His testimony said “it was huge” and appeared to be over the center of the line of road. At this point she “still broke” but did not see Mr Abbey in her rear-view mirror. She heard the screeching of tires and a collision noise, the investigation was heard. She then saw Mr. Abbey on the ground in the middle of the road.
She added that she did not see any hand signals from Mr. Cox or hear his horn honk, but recalled seeing flashing lights on the vehicle. She said seeing the combine took her by surprise. Evidence read on behalf of witnesses who saw Mr Abbey before the collision referred to his ‘erratic’ driving and ‘in and out of cars‘, but there was no evidence to suggest that he was going over the speed limit.
A report from PC collision investigator Andrew Fellows, Cheshire Police, confirmed there were no faults with the Yamaha. At the scene, he found two tire tracks on the road caused by the “hard” braking of the motorcycle. Using the starting point of the tire mark, he calculated Mr Abbey’s speed to be in the range of 23 to 26 mph.
Since there were no markings on the Fiesta, nor any evidence of a collision, he was unable to reconstruct its movements. PC Fellows said it was likely Mr Booker had ‘insufficient time to avoid the collision’.
The audience was also told that as a result of the police investigation there was “no evidence to persuade them that a prosecution was necessary”. Concluding Mr Abbey’s death was the result of a motor vehicle accident, Cheshire Deputy Coroner Jean Harkin offered her ‘sincere condolences’ to Mr Abbey’s family ‘for such a tragic loss’.