Widow hits out at North Yorkshire council after cash payout for pothole tragedy

Martyn Uzzell
Martyn Uzzell
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THE WIFE of a cyclist killed after hitting a huge pothole in North Yorkshire has accused council bosses of refusing to acknowledge their failings after receiving a six-figure sum to settle her case against them out of court.

Kate Uzzell says North Yorkshire County Council has not taken any action to stop similar tragedies happening in future and has just “thrown some money at it to make it go away”.

Martyn Uzzell

Martyn Uzzell

Her husband Martyn Uzzell, from Somerset, was travelling along the A65 Settle Bypass at Giggleswick on a charity bike ride when he rode into a 10cm-deep hole around a roadside drain that had not been filled in and was thrown into the path of an oncoming vehicle in June 2011.

During an inquest last year, a coroner said the condition of the road was the cause of the accident and that the defect had existed for some time before the 51-year-old drove over it.

Mrs Uzzell, 48, who criticised the council for not taking action despite being told about the defect, has now settled her civil claim against the authority for a six-figure sum.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “It is settled but it is not what I wanted. It is more about justice and acknowledging their failings, which they haven’t done.

“I haven’t got that and to me that is important. I just feel like they have thrown some money at it to make it go away.

“They haven’t admitted any liability or any blame, which is the difficult thing for me.

“I just want them to stand up and say they made a mistake and that it won’t happen again, but they haven’t done that.”

Mr Uzzell, who was a service engineer, died while he was taking part in a bike ride with his brother-in-law and another cyclist, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Mr Uzzell hit the pothole and lost control of his bicycle.

The inquest heard a North Yorkshire police officer called his own control room on May 11, a month before the accident, asking them to alert the county council to the fact that the area around the drain had not been filled in.

The police control room officer called the council’s customer service team to report the gap, but the authority’s phone operator did not pass this on to the highway inspection team.

Two highway inspections were carried out in the area between that call and the accident a month later. Michael Roberts, head of highway operations for the council, said an inspection carried out on May 13 ruled that the hole did not require immediate attention.

Ruling that the death was a result of a road traffic accident, coroner Robert Turnbull said there was “no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause of the accident”.

He said: “It is my opinion based on the balance of probability that this defect had existed for some time prior to the accident.”

Describing the council’s procedures for checking road defects as “fundamentally flawed”, Mrs Uzzell, 48, said: “I want the general public to report these defects and keep reporting them. Don’t think ‘I will leave it to someone else, they will do it’.

“That is the only way you can get anything done, by telling them there are these defects and that they have to sort them out.

“I am not in Yorkshire so I don’t know what is going on up there. But where I live they are not proactive in keeping roads repaired. People report potholes and they don’t do anything. This is in general across the country.”

Richard Geraghty, lawyer at Slater and Gordon, representing Mrs Uzzell, said: “It is tragic that the failure to carry out a routine repair of a hazardous pothole has resulted in this needless loss of life.”

After the inquest last year, North Yorkshire County Council said it would “consider the comments made by the coroner very carefully and we will make a full and comprehensive response in due course”.

A spokeswoman said this week: “Whilst North Yorkshire County Council accepts no liability for the tragic death of Mr Uzzell, the authority has appreciated that this is a sensitive matter and has therefore reached a settlement with Mr Uzzell’s widow, to avoid prolonged involvement in further litigation. The county council operates a highways maintenance programme that includes a robust system of inspection.”