Sister's two year quest ends at last

THE sister of a motorcyclist killed by part of a falling bridge has ended her two year quest to find out about the circumstances surrounding her brother's death.

THE sister of a motorcyclist killed by part of a falling bridge has ended her two year quest to find out about the circumstances surrounding her brother's death.

Kathryn Kent, of Main Road, Dovercourt, has been told by the Highways Agency that the organisation would be reviewing its procedures for bereaved families, and saftey measure will be introduced where the accident happened.

Mrs Kent's brother, Justin Barker, was killed as he rode his motorbike along the A120 under the A133 bridge at Hare Green near Colchester in September 2001.

A driver lost control of his car and crashed into the bridge's crash barrier and falling debris hit Mr Barker, also of Main Road, Dovercourt, killing him instantly. He was 26.

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An inquest into his death heard there was an incomplete weld on the bridge and an expert was critical of its construction.

Mrs Kent wanted answers from the Highways Agency but had to wait nearly two years before a report was released.

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Mrs Kent has now met Highways Agency bosses to discuss her concerns about the information contained and why it had been delayed.

She said: "I am very pleased. I did give them a grilling and there was nothing they came at me with that I did not argue with fully. They have sincerely apologised for the way they have treated my family in all of this.

"They are now looking at how they deal with families and reviewing their protocol."

Mrs Kent added: "This should have all been taking place nearly two years ago. It should not have taken two years of fighting.

"But now that is it for me. A massive weight has been lifted and I left that meeting with a smile on my face. I can lay it to rest as I feel like I have won," she said.

Mrs Kent was told that bridges like the one in question were not designed to withstand anything more than the impact of a saloon car travelling at 70 mph. If they were strengthened anymore, they could become more dangerous to cars which did hit them.

The agency is now set to carry out a series of safety improvements where the accident happened.

Warning signs, speed limit changes and chevrons will be introduced and vegetation will be taken back to ensure better visibility for drivers.

Mrs Kent was also informed there would be further investigations into welds like the incomplete one which gave way in her brother's accident.

Before the report was released in June this year, it had taken intervention from Harwich MP, Ivan Henderson and the Under Secretary of Sate for Transport, David Jamieson.

It found Mr Barker had not been at fault in any way and said he had simply been in the "wrong place at the wrong time".

The report concluded there had an unusual and unprecedented series of events that led to the accident – the severity of which was extremely rare.

The investigations showed the safety fence which replaced the one damaged during the accident was deficient and still did not comply with the necessary requirements including its height – although bosses have denied this is correct.

A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said last week's meeting had been very productive.

She said: "Representatives met with Mrs Kent to explain the circumstances surrounding her brother's tragic death and it was very beneficial to all parties.

"I can confirm the safety improvements discussed will be made before the end of the financial year.

"The Highways Agency will also be looking very carefully at the way it handles matters like this in the future."

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