Prison officer died in tragic road accident

Scene of the fatal accident involving a cyclist on East Road in Lancaster.
Scene of the fatal accident involving a cyclist on East Road in Lancaster.

A cyclist died from serious head injuries after braking sharply on a hill in Lancaster, an inquest heard.

Mervyn Watson, 59, from Morecambe, was cycling home from work at Lancaster Farms Young Offenders Institute at around 5pm on February 13, when the accident happened.

Witness Robert Clow-Whitelegg said he saw the prison officer, coming down East Road “quite fast”, and there were no other vehicles in the area at the time.

“The bike appeared to just stop, as if it had hit a wall or barrier,” he told the inquest at Lancaster Magistrates Court on Monday.

“It flipped up, and the cyclist came away from the bike and flew through the air for a distance of about ten yards before hitting the ground.”

He also said that Mr Watson was wearing a helmet, however this broke on impact with the ground.

Pathologist Dr Al-Mudhaffer said that Mr Watson was in very good health at the time, and there was no alcohol in his system.Dr Al-Mudhaffer concluded that Mr Watson fell from his bike and died due to a “significant head injury”.

PC Philip Walker, from Lancashire Police Accident Investigation Unit, said that the road was wet and had minor defects, but was in generally good condition, and shouldn’t have caused any problems for cyclists.

He added: “It was a good quality bike and the tyres were almost new and correctly inflated. The suspension is compressed when the front brake is compressed, and this reduces the centre of gravity, and makes things easier for the rear end to lift.

“This is the most likely scenario for the collision.”

A beanie hat found nearby suggested to police officers that Mr Watson could have been wearing it under his helmet, which could have caused the helmet to slip, but there was nothing to prove this either way.

Coroner Mr Simon Jones concluded: “We cannot know why he applied the brakes in this manner, but it would seem to me that this is what happened.

“He’d clearly been wearing a cycle helmet, but whether he was wearing a hat underneath, we don’t know because no-one actually saw it.

“It’s clear that he suffered a heavy blow to his head and we cannot say whether the outcome would have been any different if he had been wearing a hat underneath.”

Mr Jones recorded a verdict of accidental death.