A coroner will write to the country’s top motorcycling body asking it to consider rider fatigue as a possible consideration before competing after a case in which a man was killed after crashing into a barrier.
John Frances Conlon, known to his family as Frank, died almost immediately when he hurtled off his white Suzuki GSX motorcycle during an event in Ardfield near Clonakilty in West Cork on September 18, 2017.
Coroner Frank O’Connell heard from marshalls at the Twohigs Hill Climb at Ardfield that at around 4.15pm, Mr Conlon did not seem to gear down or ease the throttle as he headed into a 111-degree bend on the uphill against-the-clock run on his 750cc bike.
He smashed into a huge plastic-covered straw bale which was one of a number forming a barrier at the corner. Clonakilty Coroners Court heard that Mr Conlon had already taken the route at least three times that day.
An autopsy showed Mr Conlon, aged 41, from Drumsloe in Clones, Co Monaghan, died of traumatic brain injury and upper cervical spinal chord injury.
Marshall Robert Vaughan noted that Mr Conlon did not decelerate approaching the corner, stating that “it was the only bike not to brake at all”. Another marshall, Pat Kenny, gave similar evidence.
The court heard that Mr Conlon’s motorbike and his personal protective clothing had both passed the required tests earlier that day. The court also heard that, notwithstanding damage caused by the crash, his vehicle seemed to have been fully functional, with no indication that there had been a mechanical fault.
However, the court heard that the day before the race Mr Conlon had flown in from London, gone to Clones, and then departed for Clonakilty. Initially it was thought he arrived in Clonakilty at 5am on race day, but family members present clarified that he arrived in the town at around midnight. It is understood he slept in his van.
Mr O’Connell asked the seven-person jury to consider if they wanted to attach a rider to their verdict, that Motorcycling Ireland consider adding a question as to whether competitors had been adequately rested before racing.
He said there was no forensic evidence that tiredness played a role in Mr Conlon’s death, but added: “It strikes me that it is a very important part of the preparations for a race to be adequately rested.”
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and did offer the opinion that fatigue be considered as a factor before competition.
He said he would write to the organisation advising it of the verdict and the related opinion.