Coroner calls for stricter show safety
By Ted JeoryA CORONER has called for stricter safety measures after a teenage stunt rider died while performing a complex manoeuvre at a show.Essex coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray called the death of Abbas Malik the “saddest of losses”, but expressed “surprise” such events involving children did not have to be licensed.
By Ted Jeory
A CORONER has called for stricter safety measures after a teenage stunt rider died while performing a complex manoeuvre at a show.
Essex coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray called the death of Abbas Malik the “saddest of losses”, but expressed “surprise” such events involving children did not have to be licensed.
Abbas, 15, was killed after being thrown from his motorbike following a collision with another young rider before being hit by a third motorcyclist as he lay on the ground at the Colchester Jubilee Searchlight Tattoo.
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The teenager, a member of the Honda Imps youth team, died from multiple injuries caused while riding in a manoeuvre called the Irish Whip.
That involves 16 riders - all aged under 16 - converging from different directions at a central point in groups of three at 20mph.
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An inquest in Chelmsford heard yesterday the Army's full-time White Helmets display team only performed the manoeuvre with nine men.
Since the accident at the tattoo, held in West Bergholt on May 27 last year, the east London-based team has tightened up its safety procedures and now only performs the Irish Whip with 12 youngsters.
Abbas' mother, Nisar, from east London, said her “perfectly fit and healthy” son had been looking forward to the day's show, as he always did.
She added he had been keen to join the Honda Imps and while at first she had been not “so sure” about his ambition because it involved motorbikes, she told the inquest jury her fears had been allayed when she had gone to watch them train.
After that, her son trained every weekend with the team for about three years leading up to the fatal accident.
Roy Pratt, who founded the Honda Imps 32 years ago as a way of educating “street children” in London's East End, and is also responsible for the team's displays, said the performance had been no more dangerous than cross country riding.
His teams had previously performed the Irish Whip without injury going back three decades, he told the jury.
Paul Boughey, chief instructor of the White Helmets, said: “We only do it with nine riders, but our machines are bigger and more powerful and we work full-time on our displays. The way the Honda Imps do the Irish Whip is much simpler.”
But Pc Charles Harris, of Essex Police's traffic investigation unit, said the manoeuvre was “inherently dangerous”.
He added: “Where vehicles are coming at each other from opposite directions, the danger is massively increased.
“There was a constant flow of them without much of a gap in between and that left no room for error.
“It would be difficult for an adult to perform, but when children are doing it, you are putting pressure on them to make fine judgments.”
After showing the jury an edited version of home videos taken at the time of the accident, Pc Harris explained how he believed 15-year-old Allan Beech had made a “slight error” going in his turn too soon and collided with Abbas.
John Rose, also 15, had “no chance” to avoid his colleague, Mr Harris told the inquest.
Colchester Borough Council's environmental health officer, Timothy Nice, told the jury as the show had not involved music or dancing, no licence for the event had been required, even though children riding motorbikes were involved. “As it stands with the legislation, there is nothing we can do,” he said.
Speaking after the jury returned a verdict of accidental death, Mrs Beasley-Murray said: “The Honda Imps have achieved a lot over the years. However, I'm surprised that there appears to be no licensing requirements.
“I'm minded to consider writing to the local authority co-ordinator of regulatory services about such needs.”
Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Malik said her son would never be forgotten and added: “There is no animosity. He loved the Imps - he wouldn't talk about anything else.
“But I'm glad the coroner is going to do something - there should be licensing where children are involved.”
Essex Police said their investigation into Abbas' death was closed and there would be no prosecutions in connection with the incident.