Manhole cover may have caused war hero’s fatal crash

Mike Cutler with a photo of his son-in-law
Mike Cutler with a photo of his son-in-law

AN AFGHAN and Iraq war hero who fought against the Taliban may have died after his motorbike slipped on a man hole cover in Kent as he rode home, an inquest heard.

Corporal Terry Stevenson, was riding his Honda 650cc machine along Cranbrook Road in Hawkhurst back to St Leonards when he slid off and collided with a van that had stopped in front of him.

His family are now calling on the Government to install anti-skid manholes on all roads across the country.

Tunbridge Wells Coroners Court heard on Wednesday how the 35-year-old was thrown onto the other side of the road into the path of a Ford Fiesta travelling in the opposite direction.

The father-of-one suffered fatal pelvic and chest injuries and died in Tunbridge Wells Hospital around two hours after the accident at 7.15pm on February 10.

He had been making his daily ride home from the Maidstone Barracks of the 36 Royal Engineer Regiment where he was an instructor in communications.

Cpl Stevenson’s devastated father-in-law told the Observer: “Terry was a very safe rider. He had done his advance bike riding course. He had fought for Queen and Country on the front line against the Taliban. We can’t believe his life has ended in this way.”

The court heard how Cpl Stevenson’s accident could have been caused by driving over the manhole in wet conditions.

He was travelling at roughly 40mph in a 50mph zone

PC David Kirk, a forensic investigator specialising in road accidents, could not say for certain if the accident was caused by the bike going over the manhole cover, but he had not ruled it out.

Skid marks on the road and the bike’s front tyre were consistent with hitting the cover but there was also a minor throttle defect that could have made it difficult to slow down.

Maureen Stone, who was driving the Astra van, said Cpl Stevenson had been following her for sometime and was not driving erratically. The van had stopped in a line of traffic ahead of him.

Coroner Roger Hatch concluded Cpl Stevenson’s death was due to a road traffic accident.

He said: “There seems no explanation as such as to why control was lost of the motorcycle. This was a road traffic accident.

“It may well be as the police officer has told me that the manhole cover may have contributed in some way.”

Cpl Stevenson, who was married with a two-year-old daughter called Pippa, was given full military honours at his funeral in Hastings Crematorium on February 29.

He had served in the Army for 13 years, both in the UK and Germany, and served with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He belonged to the 50 Headquarters and Support Squadron and had recently finished training and developing young troops for an upcoming training exercise in Jordan.

Mr Cutler, a retired builder, added: “I would like to know why the Government is not putting anti-skid manhole covers across our roads.

“It was dark and wet when Terry hit that cover.

“I’ve hit them in bad weather myself and they can be very dangerous.

“Health and safey is so important these days. You can’t ever go up a ladder without having a safety check. So why can’t something be done about manhole covers.”