Double death crash after driver error

Stuart Mann
Stuart Mann

AN ELDERLY driver failed to check it was safe before pulling out into the path of a motorcyclist, claiming both their lives.

Stuart Mann’s bike struck the driver door of Gerald Hinxman’s Volkswagen as the car turned right into the A21, an inquest heard this week.

Mr Mann, 66, from Tenterden Rise, died of multiple injuries in Kings College Hospital in London on June 30 last year, the day of the crash.

Mr Hinxman, 81, of Eccleston Square Mews, London, passed away a few days later on July 4, of bronchial pneumonia caused by severe head injuries sustained in the accident at the junction of the A21 with Marley Lane, Battle.

Mr Mann’s family say they do not blame Mr Hinxman, a retired civil engineer, for the fatal crash.

His son, Paul, said: “We feel desperately sad by the whole thing and are very grateful to all of the emergency services. We could not have asked for better support.

“This was just a very sad accident and our thoughts are with Mr Hinxman’s family.” The inquest held at Hastings Magistrates Court on Wednesday, heard that Mr Mann had been out on a motorbike ride with friend Clive Crutchley.

The pair met outside Kings Church on The Ridge, Hastings, just after 10am before heading for a leisurely ride to the Medway Towns.

As Mr Mann and Mr Crutchley approached the Marley Lane junction on the A21, Mr Crutchley became distracted by a flatbed lorry, which was indicating to pull out of a lay-by before the junction.

As Mr Crutchley concentrated on the movements of the lorry driver, he wasn’t watching his friend riding ahead.

He said he then heard a ‘whoomp’ sound.

In a statement read out to the court, Mr Crutchley said: “I could see Stuart had hit a car, which looked like it had pulled out of Marley Lane in front of him.”

He added: “I slowed down and pulled up alongside Stuart in the road.

“I could see he was face down, unconscious.”

Various witnesses described the road conditions as dry, clear and said Mr Mann had his headlights on and was travelling between 50mph and 60mph - below the national speed limit.

Security engineer Curt Clement-Fletcher, of South Road, Haywards Heath, was in his van waiting behind Mr Hinxman on Marley Lane.

He said he recalled the driver looking right then left, but failed to look right again before pulling out into the path of Mr Mann’s Honda bike.

Mr Clement-Fletcher told the inquest: “When he pulled out I noticed the motorcyclist coming up the road.

“At that moment I thought to myself ‘what’s he doing?’ and as he pulled out I don’t think he even had time to see if there was a motorcyclist coming.”

He said he heard the bike breaking just before it hit the car.

The inquest heard that Mr Hinxman was fit and healthy and there was no evidence he had suffered a medical episode, such as a stroke, shortly before the accident.

There was a condition on Mr Hinxman’s driving licence that he had to wear glasses while behind the wheel.

There had been some confusion over whether Mr Hinxman had been wearing his glasses at the time of the crash, but a witness later came forward to say he remembered removing Mr Hinxman’s glasses when he rushed over to help at the scene of the accident.

Police Sergeant Richard Hornsey, from the Sussex Police collision investigation reconstruction unit, said: “It appears this tragic incident occurred as a result of Mr Hinxman trying to move on to a major road without him checking it was safe to do so.”

He added that the collision was ‘sadly inevitable’.

Coroner Alan Craze said: “It’s an extremely tragic double fatal accident and a harrowing thing for people to have to go through this afternoon.”

Mr Craze offered his condolences to families of both man and recorded two verdicts of death by road traffic accident.