Profile of a collision
I realise that The Rider’s Digest isn’t only viewed nationally, but here in the UK it’s reached that time of year when the god/goddess of farming does his/her best to knobble bikers as harvesting increases the amount of slow moving vehicles, vehicles that seem to turn into a field where there is no turn and deposit mud, slurry and any manner of other slippery stuff on the road.
This incident did involve a tractor, but it happened a while ago in the middle of spring. The people involved and their families have no issues with these details being shared as their wish to prevent more crashes coincides with mine.
Picture the scene… A pleasant spring afternoon, road and weather dry – a good time for a casual spin out on the old steed…
A Suzuki motorcycle with rider and pillion are travelling on a main arterial route in East Yorkshire, life is good and no doubt they were heading for a ‘brew’ and a chat at a café somewhere.
Below is an extract from a statement I took from a witness who saw the collision, it has been edited to remove references to personal details.
“The car that I drive on a daily basis is registered to my partner but is basically my main mode of transport. It is a silver coloured Vauxhall Zafira people carrier which is capable of carrying up to seven people.
“It was this vehicle that I was driving around 2.35 pm when I witnessed a serious collision between a tractor and a motorcycle on a stretch of the A614 in between Market Weighton and Middleton On The Wolds.
“The collision was horrific and unfortunately I had a grandstand view of it so the events are extremely vivid in my mind.
“The A614 is a road that I have driven many times before and one that I can safely claim to know well although place names along it escape me somewhat, possibly due to the fact that it is basically featureless as it cuts through open countryside.
“I do however recognise a car sales place near to Market Weighton but that is virtually the only memorable landmark.
“I would describe the A614 as being a typical country type road which for the most part is a single carriageway that twists and turns, rises and falls as it goes.
“The speed limit is mainly sixty miles per hour outside of the villages and within those built up areas it drops down to thirty.
“It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how far from Market Weighton or from Middleton on the Wolds the collision occurred so it would perhaps be more beneficial to describe the location as if having travelled from the direction of the car sales, as I was doing at that particular time.
“The car showroom is positioned off to the right hand side of the A614, close by, but to the Middleton on the Wolds side of a fairly large roundabout and from that point the road rises steadily uphill for approximately one mile. The carriageway is divided into a number of lanes with one being a ‘crawler’ for larger vehicles such as lorries and the likes to use whilst climbing the hill but this then drops down to two lanes at the top.
“Having levelled out, the road then bends round to the right before becoming straight for what I can only equate in time to being two minutes worth of driving at my normal speed of 45 miles per hour.
“I generally tend to drive most places at that speed when driving on roads with a national speed limit and that is why I use that as a yard stick.
“The road then bends around to the left in what I would describe as being a steady kind of a bend, one that I would simply ease off a little for rather than have to brake and it then climbs uphill again leading to a right hander.
“Once round that bend the road becomes straight for a good two miles and it was on this particular stretch of road that the collision occurred.
“I would describe this section of the A614 as being a single carriageway that is divided into two lanes by a broken white line that is painted along the centre of the road. To the best of my knowledge the road rises ever so slightly uphill as you travel in the direction of Middleton on the Wolds and there are white lines painted along the edges of the carriageway to mark the limits of each lane.
“Both sides of the road are bordered by a grass verge that must be somewhere in the region of three feet wide and that then leads on to a prickly type hedge that tends to follow the path taken by the road.
“I would say that it is possible to see over the top of that hedge and into the open fields beyond whilst sitting in a car, so at a guess I’d say that it stands around four feet high and from memory there are a heck of a lot of field entrances dotted along its length.
“Views along the section of road that the collision happened on are generally very good and the only feature that prevents you from seeing down as far as Middleton on the Wolds itself is a slight left hand bend in the carriageway.
“I was accompanied in the car by my friend who was occupying the front passenger seat and I also had with me my daughter and her friend (9 years) who despite my moaning had decided to make use of the rearmost seats.
“I seem to recall that the time was around 2.10 pm as we began the journey and weather wise it was a lovely sunny day with dry road surfaces.
“I was in no particular rush to get home and the mood in our car was a good one.
“At the next roundabout I travelled straight on onto what I know is the A614 and from that point on, the roads are as I previously described.
“Traffic wise, it was nothing out of the ordinary for a Thursday afternoon, there was a fair amount about but it came in fits and starts with times when several vehicles would pass in ‘clumps’ and others when there was basically nothing at all.
“I do remember commenting out loud at one point about the number of motorbikes that were out and about and it being a sure sign that summer was around the corner but that had been a general comment and I was not referring to any particular person as I said it.
“That said, I did casually make a mental note of a silver/blue coloured sports bike that had been parked up near to the car sales as I passed, but that was only because of the fact that it was a nice bike and there were two people with it dressed in similar leathers to one another.
“In any event, I continued on past and sticking to my 45 miles per hour made my way unwittingly towards what was to be the scene of the collision.
“I remember easing my way around the left hand bend and joining what I like to call ‘the climb’ leading towards the right hander and the two mile long straight.
“As I neared the right hand bend, I checked my mirrors and saw that I had nothing following me at all. Similarly, the road ahead was clear too but as I rounded the bend to join the straight, I immediately saw that there was a tractor and trailer heading in the same direction that I was, seemingly some fifteen car lengths away from me.
“The reason that I recall the tractor so well, apart from the fact that it was shortly to be involved in the collision is because I had been caught behind another one earlier in the day and I muttered to myself, ‘Another bugger!’
“At that stage I could make out that the tractor was red in colour and that it was pulling what looked to me to be a metal bulk type trailer with a drop down tailgate loaded up with manure.
“The trailer was roughly half the length of a normal ‘artic’ trailer and half the height too. It was approximately the width of a normal sized car, sufficient to mask the majority of the tractor from view and although I am not 100% sure of its colour I seem to think that it was painted either red or burgundy.
“It would be fair to say that the trailer was piled high and it was even dropping small amounts of manure but never the less I could see part of the tractor cab above the load and could easily see a flashing orange beacon in the middle of its roof.
“The tractor was trundling along at a speed of around fifteen miles per hour and was positioned towards the centre white lines as it went. I distinctly remember that from my position central in the Middleton (on the Wolds) bound lane I could see past the tractor down its passenger side and immediately on seeing it I formed the opinion that it was preparing to make a right hand turn.
“I am not sure whether this was reinforced in my mind by seeing the tractor indicating, but the trailer was fitted with lights and I am 65% sure that a right hand indicator was flashing as it approached its turn which was roughly 40 to 45 car lengths from the start of the straight.
“In any event, the presence of the tractor didn’t cause me any concerns at all and didn’t require me to do anything other than simply ease off the accelerator.
“I recall that as I first saw the tractor, I checked my mirrors a second time and saw exactly the same as before – nothing following me at all.
“My suspicions that the tractor driver was about to make a right hand turn were then realised and as I closed to within eight car lengths of it, it did exactly that, turning in towards a field entrance.
“By that time I had reduced my speed to all of twenty miles per hour and the tractor turning didn’t particularly cause me any problems but it was at that point that I was surprised by a motorbike suddenly overtaking me!
“I couldn’t believe it because (a) it was obvious to anyone looking on that the tractor was going to make a turn and (b) having started to do so, the trailer was blocking the way ahead so there was nowhere for the bike to go!
“Even though everything then happened in a split second, I remember thinking to myself, ‘What are you doing, why haven’t you seen it?’ meaning the motorcycle rider and referring to the fact that his path was blocked.
“It also occurred to me at that moment that perhaps the bike rider intended to swerve ahead of me and around the back of the trailer but I soon pushed that out of my mind as being impossible.
“The bike, a silver and blue coloured sports type motorcycle passed me at a speed of around fifty miles per hour and was positioned roughly three quarters of the way across the right hand lane so it was in effect giving me quite a wide berth.
“I could see that onboard the bike were two people dressed in matching white, blue and silver coloured leathers. They were each wearing black and white coloured helmets that were fitted with black visors in the down position and both appeared to me to be of the same slim build as one another so it was impossible at that stage to say what sex each person was. It did briefly occur to me that this bike looked like one of those that I had passed near to the car sales, but I couldn’t be 100% sure if that was actually the case.
“What happened next seemed to me to be inevitable given the speed of the bike, the distance that it was from the tractor and the fact that its path was blocked;
“The bike seemed to maintain a straight course towards the second panel (from the front) of the trailer and I saw the back wheel of the motor bike start to weave about from side to side presumably as the rider hit his brakes.
“Strangely enough, at this point everything seemed to go into slow motion from my perspective and although I initially thought to myself ‘He’s stopped in time!’
“It soon became apparent that the rider hadn’t been able to do so and I saw the bike fall over onto its right hand side.
“The rider of the motorcycle and the pillion passenger then seemed to be thrown slightly ahead of the bike and it was almost as if someone had gathered all three up and simply pushed them into the gap in front of the trailer wheels which were obviously still rolling as the tractor continued its turn making in the region of 5 miles per hour.
“Seeing this, I braked and quickly brought my car to a stop whilst subconsciously watching the person that had been travelling as pillion passenger on the bike
“That person had been thrown in the direction of the front most trailer wheel whilst the rider had come to rest beneath the centre of the trailer in such a position that I believed both sets of wheels would pass either side of him/her.
“For some reason though, possibly because of having to concentrate on stopping, I must have looked momentarily away because the next time that I saw the pillion was as he or she (she as I later learnt) was travelling over the top of the front most, driver’s side wheel of the trailer having somehow become tangled around both the wheel and its axle.
“The tractor then stopped very briefly before continuing into the fields dragging the bike and its riders beneath it.
“I was shocked to say the least but felt the need to do something so at that point I told everyone to stay in our car and then quickly ran towards the tractor, waving my arms and shouting to him to stop.
“As I did so, I saw the pillion passenger emerge from beneath the rear of the trailer and come to rest close by the hedge to the right hand side of the field entrance.
“That person was very badly mangled, so much so that it was impossible for me to be able to say how he/she was laid; I could make out that his/her helmet visor was facing the hedge but he/she appeared to me to be quite literally folded in half and although I couldn’t see any blood at all I knew instantly that the person was dead.
“The rider was next to appear from beneath the rear of the trailer and came to rest further into the field, fairly central in respect of the field entrance, almost at right angles to the road and around three feet from the pillion.
“That person was laid outstretched on his front with his head pointing towards the road, his feet in towards the fields and his arms up either side of his head in a position similar to that which a baby often adopts when asleep.
“The rider was not moving at all and I could see blood literally flowing from beneath his crash helmet and gathering in a puddle around him. It was obvious to me on seeing this that he must have been dead because no one could lose that much blood and still be alive.
“The bike that they had been riding then came into view and was positioned even further into the field, possibly a car’s length from the A614 and it was barely even recognisable as being a motorbike at all; it had the appearance of being something that had been crushed in a scrap yard!
“Within a few moments, the tractor came to a stop in the field and the driver, a male who I would describe as being in his thirties, 5’07” to 5’08” tall, of chunky build and general scruffy, workman like appearance being dressed in blue jeans and a grey tee shirt, jumped out.
“He walked towards me and as he did so he obviously saw the couple laid out and said, ‘Oh my God, where did they come from?’
“I said, ‘You’ve just run over them! Why did you set off again?’
“At that he replied, ‘I felt a bump and I saw your car but I didn’t see them!’
“The tractor driver seemed to be really subdued, possibly due to being shocked I am not sure, but he then said that he had better ring his boss and with that got his mobile from the cab.
“In the meantime, I phoned 999 and the female operator took some details from me about what had happened. She was asking me all kinds of questions about the state of the rider and passenger, one of which regarding the pillion was whether I could find a pulse at all. I told the lady that there was no point in me even trying to look for a pulse because I could see that the injuries were too serious – she didn’t look to me as if she was even in one piece!
“I did move over to the rider though and checked to see whether he was breathing by placing my hand on his back in between the shoulder blades but couldn’t feel any rise and fall at all and I relayed that to the operator.
“Both the rider and pillion passenger were still wearing their crash helmets and had the visors in the down position so I could not see the faces of either and to be quite honest, although it might sound strange to some people I did not have the inclination to try lifting them because I don’t think I would have been able to live with the thought of either of them looking at me.
“It was a very daunting situation for me and I was relieved when a chap pulled up in a silver coloured Vauxhall and asked me whether he could help. I told him what had happened and with that he stuck around helping to move traffic along as by then several vehicles had begun to slow down/crawl past the field entrance ogling.
“I also helped to keep traffic moving but was quite incensed by some of the people that slowed down to gawp at the scene and was quite animated in telling them to move on so if anyone reported seeing a mad woman waving her arms around, that would most likely be me!
“Fortunately, an ambulance first responder arrived on the scene within five or so minutes of the collision having happened and that was followed fairly quickly by another two ambulances and the police.
“The chap that stopped to offer help set to helping the ambulance staff as they assessed the biker’s conditions.
“I remember helping a female member of the ambulance staff to roll the rider over onto his back. His helmet was then carefully removed and it was then and only then that I saw the person was actually male. Up until that point it was impossible to say what sex either casualty was.
“The rider was a white male, possibly in his early thirties, clean shaven with dark coloured hair and I remember thinking that he was a handsome kind of a lad with nice skin and a light tan.
“One of the ambulance men placed some leads onto the chest of the rider and shortly after doing so I heard him say “NO” to his colleague which I took to mean that the chap had died.
“At some stage I managed to get a hold of a white coloured blanket from one of the ambulances and because of how badly injured the pillion passenger was, I covered that person over with it.
“I did not see any of the ambulance staff treat that person nor did I see anyone remove his or her crash helmet.”
The witness to this was very badly affected by what she saw for some months, the tractor driver suffered considerable shock and more than a year later he was still being troubled by his unwitting part in the events.
Despite tractor drivers’ bad reputation, the driver was indicating and all lights were clean and easy to see, the driver of the tractor was not at fault.
Both the rider and pillion died almost instantly if not instantly when colliding with the immoveable side of the trailer, the pillion, (when travelling around the wheels), had been literally torn in half, only held together by the back of her leathers.
Mr and Mrs average couple were out on an average ride, there was no real speed involved, but the bike was travelling over the 60mph speed limit, the rider had reasonable experience, but took the opportunity to overtake, his last decision that took both their lives.
Both rider and pillion’s families had to be told what had happened, this would have affected the extended family.
The witness and innocent driver were affected for a considerable time.
Both police and ambulance staff had to deal with the carnage at the scene.
The scene had to be cleaned up before relatives could visit… all due to not looking properly and riding a bit too fast.
And you wonder why we issue tickets and are sometimes unreasonable when we deal with offenders!
DON’T LET THIS BE THE LAST THING YOU SEE
The images are a mixture, the ones of the tractor and tractor with the bike were taken on the day, the others during a long and complicated re construction when views were taken at different distances to represent different speeds, the views of the tractor and trailer on the road are a mixture of these.