Inquest finds bikers and devoted family men died after colliding head-on in the Yorkshire Dales on a blind summit
Martin Ragg, 59, was travelling south on the A6108 near Masham with a group of friends when he crossed a solid white line into the path of Michael 'Mick' Lynas, 57, who was riding in the opposite direction with his 21-year-old daughter in convoy behind him on April 25 last year.
A rare joint inquest held at County Hall in Northallerton today found that neither of the men or their companions had been riding in a manner that caused concern until the fatal manoeuvre that killed them both instantly.
The dip on the stretch between East Witton and Leyburn had visibility so poor that an oncoming vehicle would be completely obscured from a distance of around 30 metres in either direction.
Both the Lynas and Ragg families have raised a total of over £16,000 for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance from separate fundraising appeals since the accident.
Assistant coroner for North Yorkshire Oliver Longstaff remarked that with their similar backgrounds and passion for motorcycles, it is likely that Mr Ragg and My Lynas would have 'got on quite well' had they ever met.
Both were qualified engineers, with Mr Lynas working offshore on oil rigs as an instrument technician and Mr Ragg as a sales manager for a firm in Thirsk after a spell running an industrial employment agency. They had both owned bikes from a young age and were both married with children.
Mr Lynas' wife Tina, mother of their daughters Eve and Alex, 17, said she met her husband on a night out in Middlesbrough in 1993 and that he was already 'passionate' about bikes. She learned to ride pillion and enjoyed trips to Scotland with him, describing him as a 'great rider, always safe and not a risk taker'. They lived in South Kilvington, near Thirsk, and at the time of his death Mr Lynas owned 13 motorcycles, most classic models which he had restored himself. On the day of the accident he had set out on his favourite Moto Guzzi bike with Eve, who had passed her test some months before, on a Kawasaki to meet friends in Masham marketplace.
In a statement to the coroner, she said: "Mick's death has left a huge gaping hole. He was a loving man and my best friend. He was full of life and very community-driven. He will forever remain in our hearts."
Jayne Ragg also provided a statement and detailed how she had met Martin when they were just 18 and 20. They raised their children Chris, Ben and Jessica in Wetherby before a more recent move to Skelton-on-Ure, near Ripon, where they had bought a cottage to renovate. He had been riding his only bike, a BMW RT 1200, on the day of the collision and had met up with a group of nine other men who regularly rode out together on Sundays from Wetherby.
She said: "He was a devoted soulmate and dad. Our lives have been shattered forever. That afternoon we were meant to go to a barbecue at our son's house with our two baby grand-daughters. He loved his family and he loved our new role in life as grandparents. I was never interested in bikes but he had loved them since he was 16 and this was his first trip out of the year.
"He was a caring, loving human being with a heart of gold who worked hard to provide for his family. We would also like to send our condolences to Mick's family, as they have been walking the same path of grief and shock."
Eve Lynas said she and her father had left Masham to travel on to her grandparents' home in Middlesbrough for Sunday dinner and that Mr Lynas had begun ascending the dip ahead of her when she saw a bike on the 'wrong side of the road'. She was herself struck with debris and narrowly avoided being seriously hurt.
The driver of the car that Mr Ragg had tried to overtake, Brian Ramsey, said he had already pulled over to let other bikers pass his Mazda convertible on a straight stretch when he saw Mr Ragg's group in his rear view mirrors. One managed to get past before the crest but three others were immediately behind him and as he approached the summit he realised that one was in his blind spot and then heard the impact.
"He had the space to pull back in and I don't understand why he didn't or why he couldn't see the traffic coming towards us. He was on the wrong side of the white line."
Evidence was heard from a biker who had been immediately behind Mr Ragg in their convoy and who said that he had never had any concerns about his riding before. The 10 friends always rode at a steady speed as the oldest member of the group was 75, and communicated via an intercom system. They never overtook each other.
They had been to Skipton and stopped at the Braemar ice cream parlour before returning to the A6108. A gap had formed between the riders as they approached the dip, with Mr Ragg more central to the lane, but he did not see any attempt at overtaking or crossing until Mr Ragg was thrown over the handlebars.
North Yorkshire Police forensic collision investigator PC Patrick Green clarified that a solid double white line indicates that a driver should not cross or straddle it as there is a hazard ahead. He added that the summit was 'blind' in both directions and that neither the bikes nor the road surface were defective.
PC Green established that the point of impact was 1.5 metres into the northbound carriageway, in the direction My Lynas was travelling in, and that Mr Ragg had entered the opposing carriageway. Both were unable to see the other until almost at the point of impact.
He added that it was difficult to quantify the speeds either man was travelling at and confirmed that the painted white lines were visible at the crash site, though there was some concern that they were faded on another part of the stretch.
PC Green said: "It would still be clear that it was a blind summit. No other rider was observed riding in an inconsiderate manner and there was nothing in the lead-up to the collision that caused concern."
Postmortems indicated that neither man had drugs or alcohol in their system and both died from head and chest injuries.
Recording a conclusion of deaths in a road traffic accident, Mr Longstaff said: "There is nothing to suggest that either of them was anything other than responsible and competent. Both loved their hobby. Had they met, there is every chance they would have got on quite well.
"I formally find that the point of impact was on the northbound side, as identified by an expert witness. It is far more likely than not that Mr Ragg was offside of the double white lines."