Declan's death prompts road safety calls

Issue 574

A CORONER refused to back calls for speed restrictions in Mirfield after a paperboy died in a tragic accident.

Roger Whittaker, who recorded an accidental verdict, said speed was not a factor the death of 15-year-old Declan Newsome.

He made the comments following evidence at the hearing showing the brakes on Declan’s bike were faulty.

Castle Hall Academy prefect Declan, of Trinity Street, died from serious head injuries suffered while delivering papers in Upper Hopton on July 9 last year.

Declan, who was not wearing a safety helmet, hit a stationary Suzuki Wagon R near the junction of Hopton Lane and Hopton Avenue.

He was airlifted to hospital with a fractured skull and a severe brain injury.

He died three weeks later at Leeds General Infirmary when his life support machine was switched off.

A bright student and a keen footballer, Declan was described as “pedalling like billy-o” down the steep Hopton Lane when he clipped the back of the Suzuki.

The vehicle had stopped to let others come up the hill, with Declan’s bike striking one of them, a VW Golf, after hitting the Suzuki.

He fell into the road, suffering head injuries so severe that pathologist Dr Julian Ostrowski said a helmet would have made no difference.

In the wake of the accident devastated parents Kenneth and Harriet Newsome called for speed cameras or speed bumps to be installed along Hopton Lane.

Mr Newsome also pleaded at the Bradford hearing for Mr Whittaker to recommend drivers face speed restrictions.

But Mr Whittaker said: “I have no evidence to show speed was a factor in this incident. There is no evidence so, sadly, there’s nothing I can do.”

Earlier, Steve Green, a West Yorkshire Police crash investigator, said the brakes on Declan’s bike were ‘grossly maladjusted’ and ‘totally ineffective.’

He said the rear brake did not work at all and the front only had minor contact, which meant he could not stop.

Mr Green said: “We will never know if Declan applied the brakes but even if he did he could not have stopped.”

Kenneth Newsome said afterwards: “I hope the powers that be see the trauma we have been through and get something done.

“Our son was safety conscious and looked after his bike but he lost his life, his career, his future.

“I want Declan never to be forgotten and for something positive to come from his death.”

Despite the coroner’s verdict Mirfield councillor Vivien Lees-Hamilton is heading a campaign for safety improvements in Hopton Lane.

Coun Lees-Hamilton (Con) is also helping the Newsome family organise a campaign to make newsagents aware of their safety responsibilities to paperboys.

She said Kirklees highways officials looked into road safety measures before the inquest, but did not cost them in case other suggestions were made.

These are now to be brought forward after Mr Whittaker decided not to call for improvements at the hearing.

Coun Lees-Hamilton added changes are needed as too many drivers speed down Hopton Lane, even if it was not a factor in Declan's tragic death.

"I feel very strongly about this," Coun Lees-Hamilton, a driving instructor, said. "There are too many drivers who tear down Hopton Lane.

"The speed limit in places is 30mph, but you don't even have to doing that to be driving dangerously down it."

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