Cruel timing of Worthing biker’s tragic crash in snow

Philip Coleman and his wife
Philip Coleman and his wife

A MOTORCYCLIST died on his way to work in heavy snow and “treacherous” driving conditions just weeks after returning from his honeymoon.

Philip Coleman, 52, of Brendon Road, Worthing, was riding his Kawasaki to work in security at Gatwick Airport when he collided with a Tesco lorry on the A264 link road from Bewbush to Pease Pottage and became trapped under the lorry’s front axle.

At an inquest at Horsham Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, police described the roads as “treacherous” and said they could only drive at 20 to 25mph to reach the accident at about 5.15am on December 1 last year.

They said there was about three inches of snow on the road at the time, snow was still falling and one police officer from the roads policing unit came across the accident while taking his colleagues to work in his Land Rover – the only way they would be able to get from Horsham to Haywards Heath.

Tesco lorry driver David Johnson was driving the heavy goods vehicle following Mr Coleman.

He told the court how he noticed the motorbike “wobble” as it lost grip with the road as he was riding.

Mr Johnson braked and steered out of his way, but hit the kerb by the central reservation.

He said: “I took my eyes off him to see where I was going and that’s when obviously it happened.”

Mr Johnson said there was not anything else he could have done differently in the circumstances and was driving appropriately for the conditions.

A post mortem by pathologist Dr Ali Alhakim at East Surrey Hospital gave the cause of death as crush asphyxia.

Mr Coleman had eight fractured ribs and a broken right arm and chloroquine in his blood from the malaria tablets he was taking for his honeymoon to the Dominican Republic.

His widow Janette said they were married on October 24.

Mr Coleman, who had ridden a motorcycle for about 20 years had worked at Gatwick for about a year on an early shift.

He got up about 4.30am as usual that day and she said she could not remember them talking about the adverse weather.

“The year before when we had snow he just went to work as normal,” she said.

“There’s nothing you can do really, just take extreme caution when it’s like that and allow more time.”

Police Sergeant Stuart Homewood was first on the scene of the accident and said it had been snowing sporadically for a couple of days and quite heavily throughout that night.

“The journey to the scene was quite treacherous and we drove at 20mph,” he said.

He found an orange motorcycle lying on its side on the nearside lane and in front of it a Tesco lorry across the lane and onto the verge.

As he approached the lorry he could see a pair of legs trapped inside the front wheel of the lorry.

Assistant deputy coroner for West Sussex, Joe Turner, ruled it was accidental death.

He said: “He lost balance fell from the bike and was struck by the vehicle following him.

“This was a tragic accident with particularly cruel timing so soon after your marriage.”

In a statement after the inquest his wife said: “We were just so happy and Phil was everything to me.

“Phil had been riding motorcycles for 20 years and was an experienced rider in all sorts of weather.

“When he set off for work that morning he had no idea how bad the snow would get and, knowing Phil, he would have been desperate to get to work so his mates on nights could get home.

“Phil was a wonderful bloke with a great sense of humour... he would do anything for anyone. We all miss him so much.”