Council ‘should have repaired fatal pothole’

Martin Uzzell
Martin Uzzell
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THE wife of a cyclist killed after hitting a pothole during a charity bike ride through North Yorkshire has criticised council bosses for failing to repair the damaged road.

Martyn Uzzell was travelling along the A65 Settle Bypass at Giggleswick 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.

The 51-year-old from Somerset was killed instantly in the crash. His wife has criticised North Yorkshire County Council for not taking action despite being told about the defect.

Kate Uzzell said: “It is simply disgraceful that a pothole on such a busy road was allowed to go unrepaired.”

At the end of an inquest into Mr Uzzell’s death at Skipton Magistrates’ Court, which ended yesterday, North Yorkshire coroner Rob 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. It is not my opinion that it was a defect that had occurred very recently and it must have been some days since the defect was apparent.”

North Yorkshire will be hosting a large proportion of this summer’s Tour de France Grand Depart. The route will go from Leeds to Harrogate on the first day and from York to Sheffield on day two.

Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Uzzell said: “The coroner clearly stated, in his opinion, that the pothole around the gulley is what caused Martyn to be thrown into the path of a car. The events of June 17, 2011, were deeply traumatic for our family. We lost a husband, a brother and a brother-in-law, a dear friend and a son. Martyn’s death was entirely avoidable.

“Yorkshire is hosting the Tour de France and hundreds of thousands of cyclists will be visiting the county. We hope the road network is maintained so there is no repeat.”

Mr Uzzell died while taking part in a bike ride with his brother-in-law and another cyclist, from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and local charity Springboard. He was riding at the back of the group as they made their way in single file along the A65 at Giggleswick when they were forced to avoid the pothole. Mr Uzzell, a service engineer, is thought to have hit the pothole and lost control of his bicycle.

The inquest heard that a North Yorkshire police officer called his own control room on May 11, 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.

And he said that he would have been “astonished” if the hole had been in the condition it was at the time of the accident “for any length of time”.

Coroner Mr Turnbull said it was impossible to know if the hole was in the same condition on May 11 as it was on the day of the accident.

Richard Geraghty, personal injury lawyer with Slater & Gordon, representing Mrs Uzzell, said: “This is a tragic incident which could have been avoided had the local authority made the necessary repairs to the road.”

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire County Council it would consider the coroner’s comments. She said: “Our sympathies remain with the family of Martyn Uzzell following this tragic fatal accident.”