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'Left in frustration' after death verdict

By Shepton Mallet Journal  |  Posted: December 12, 2013

AN inquest into the death of a teenager involved in a road traffic collision at a notorious crash hot-spot near Castle Cary has returned a verdict of accidental death.

Former Ansford Academy pupil Michael Norman, 18, was involved in a collision with a van on a crossroads at Lydford on Fosse on March 11 this year.

The vehicles collided as he crossed the A37 on the B3153 heading towards his home in Lovington on his motorcycle.

The inquest, conducted by East Somerset Coroner Tony Williams on Thursday heard that Mr Norman collided with a Volkswagen Caddy being driven by plumber Gregory Channing who was travelling south along the A37 towards Yeovil. Mr Norman died of a traumatic brain injury.

Head teacher at Lovington Primary School Claire Marsland was approaching a red light at the junction in the opposite direction to Mr Norman when the incident occurred.

She said: "He didn't appear to be out of control of the bike. My only thought was that he didn't seem to be slowing down for the red light."

An investigation carried out by Avon and Somerset Police and Somerset County Council found no fault in the phasing of the traffic lights, suggesting that the lights on the B3153 had been red for four seconds before the moment of impact, which saw Mr Norman cross the northbound lane of traffic and collide with Mr Channing's driver's side door.

Vehicle investigator Geoffrey French examined Mr Channing's vehicle and Mr Norman's motorcycle and told the inquest he had found an area of corrosion on the throttle cable of the bike.

The motorcycle was also in fifth gear at the moment of impact. The inquest also heard that Mr Norman's motorcycle had been in for repairs on six occasions since the previous November – on the last occasion just three days before the incident.

Toxicology reports found no traces of alcohol in Mr Norman's blood, although it found evidence of cannabis. Mr and Mrs Norman said that they were not aware that their son had used cannabis, nor had anything come to light since to suggest that he had.

Speaking at the inquest, Michael's mother Gill Norman said that her son would not have been able to see the traffic travelling in the opposite directions due to layout of the crossroads.

She said: "In my opinion he thought he had a couple of seconds to get across and thought he would try and make it. He made the decision to run the lights, for what reason we do not know and he decided he was going to make it, that's why he didn't drop a gear."

Michael's father, Dave Norman, who revealed he had been riding motorbikes since the age of 17 himself, said he thought he understood why it appeared that Michael had not taken evasive action.

He said: "I believe he just froze, he could see what was going to happen. It's a very dangerous junction, there are so many accidents there."

Concluding the inquest, Mr Williams said: "We know that he wasn't riding at excessive speed, but he was certainly going too quickly to negotiate the junction.

"We are left with the frustration that we can't pull it together in one process as we do not know what was going through Michael's mind."