Dylan Crossey inquest: Accident investigators claim crash that killed 15-year-old was "avoidable"

Three accident investigators have told an inquest into the road death of 15-year-old Dylan Crossey they would have expected the driver to have seen him.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 4:55 pm
Dylan Crossey

Today the jury sitting in Preston's County Hall heard that Dylan and his friend Charles Hodson had been cycling one-behind-the-other on an 80cm wide footpath in Wham Lane at around 11pm on October 7, 2016, before Dylan went into the road to overtake his friend.

Charles said Dylan was on the road for around three seconds and in touching distance of his friend before the collision with David Harwood's silver BMW occured.

Dylan suffered "unsurvivable" injuries and died the next day.

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Dylan Crossey

>>>Click here to read evidence from Dylan's best friend Charles Hodson.

The original police road accident investigator, PC John Birch concluded in his report that "The bike and Dylan were there to be seen", and independent accident investigator Robert Elliot told the court: "In my opinion, the collision was avoidable", adding "As soon as Dylan was illuminated by the headlights, he would have been visible. The fact he (Mr Harwood) said he saw nothing gives me serious concerns."

Driver David Harwood, 46, of New Longton, claims he didn't see either of the boys or the bikes before, during or after the collision. He claims he thought he'd hit an animal.

>>>Click here to read the evidence given by David Harwood.

Dr Graham Greatrix, an accident investigator with 51 years of experience, said "did not disagree" with Mr Elliott's findings, and said he also would have expected Mr Harwood to have seen the initial impact and Dylan on the bonnet of the car.

PC John Birch, now retired, described the scene he found half an hour after the accident, as well as the state of the car when he inspected it in a compound on October 12.

Dylan's mum Tracey Milligan broke down in tears as the jury was shown pictures of Dylan's mangled Dawes racing bike, and pools of his blood on the road.

Mr Birch said he found that the BMW - only months old and with 1,600 miles on the clock - had no prior mechanical defects and was "working as it should be".

He said there was nothing obstructing the view on the long, straight road, visibility was clear, the weather was fine, and the road was dry and free from contaminants.

He tested decelleration on the road three times and found braking conditions as he expected. However, he found no evidence that braking had occured.

Mr Birch estimated that the car had been travelling at between 35-42mph when it struck the rear of Dylan's bike as it travelled in the same direction along the road - from New Longton and pointing in the direction of Lostock Hall.

Mr Birch said: "In colliision with the bicycle, the bicycle would have been projected forwards and pushed into the vegetation.

"Dylan goes across the bonnet, hits the windscreen and is then launched at the same speed as the vehicle into the air."

The car carried on travelling beneath him, accounting for the damage and marks to the roof.

Mr Birch estimated that Dylan was thrown in the region of around 27.5m.

When asked by Dylan's family solicitor Sefton Kwasnik whether he would have expected the driver to have seen Dylan as he was hit and went over the car, Mr Birch replied 'yes'.

Mr Birch described the damage to the car as "substantial".

He said the front bumper was cracked and marked in an area 30 to 60cm inwards from the nearside. The black undertray was broken, there were blue-coloured scuffs on the bumper the same colour as Dylan's trainers, 50-60cm scuffs on the leading edge of the bonnet, a large dent on the bonnet, a badly shattered windscreen, and skin and hair in the broken glass.

There was damage to the paintwork on the roof, with various abrasions and a long, thin "skin smear" along the roof, which occurs when exposed skin hits a surface at speed.

The passenger side wing mirror was also smashed and the casing displaced. Glass shards covered the interior of the car.

Mr Birch said that Dylan's bike was fitted with LED lights, but they "were extremely dim and next to useless and weren't switched on anyway".

The bike had amber reflectors on the pedals, but he couldn't be sure it had any reflectors on the spokes.

Dylan's clothing was described as dark, with "no reflective qualities", though his trainers did have reflectors inbetween the tread grooves on the soles.

Independent accident investigator Robert Elliot told the court: "In my opinion, the collision was avoidable." This prompted tuts from people sitting in court.

His view was generated from a detailed reconstruction carried out in the past eight weeks using the same BMW that hit Dylan, his repaired bike, a boy the same height and weight and wearing the same clothes, weather and road conditions. Lancashire County Council even replaced newer light bulbs in the streetlights for those that would have been used in 2016.

Mr Elliott also carried out headlight mapping on the BMW and found no defects.

As part of the reconstruction, seven volunteers aged between 35 to 73 were put in the drivers seat of the BMW at fixed points in the road while the car was static and the boys were on the bikes, and subjected to a test.

With no prior view of the road or knowledge of what they were looking for, they were given glimpses of the road for a third of a second, at distances of 100m, 85m, 60m and 45m away from the cyclists.

According to studies, this replicates how the human eye scans while driving.

Six out of the seven volunteers reported being able to see "something that required their attention" in the road ahead from 85m away. At 60m away, six out of seven people were certain they could see a bike in the road.

Mr Elliott also commented upon the streetlighting in the road.

He said: "It is apparent to me that the cyclist contrasted well against the background."

He went on to describe how this was known as 'negative contrast' and that Dylan and Charles would have appeared silhoutted.

After describing hazard preception and travelling times, he said: "At 85m a driver would have had considerable time to take account of a hazard."

Dr Graham Greatrix, said he "did not disagree" with Mr Elliott's findings, but did say it was his personal belief that the fact the car was stationary, as were the two boys, made the reconstruction less reliable than if they had been moving as in real life.

This was also a point raised by Mr Harwood's solicitor Mr Woods. But Mr Elliott said that it had only been conducted in this way as a safety measure, and that all peer-reviewed evidence showed the results would be the same for a stationary or dynamic view.

Mr Birch said that to his knowledged, Lancashire Police had never carried out a reconstruction like this at any point in his career until he retired from the force in 2018.

Dr Adeley said: "Why is that? We have put this together in short order and it seems very helpful."

Mr Birch replied: "It would have been good to have done this back in 2016, to have a better amount of evidence to put before the Crown Court.

"But me and my colleagues had no experience to do this."

He added that the police "don't get any updates" relating to changes in accident reconstruction technology and "we're left behind a lot in regards to technology".

When asked by Dr Adeley whether that damaged the chance of prosecution, or whether having reconstruction and headlight mapping evidence would have changed the outcome of the criminal case, Mr Birch replied: "No it wouldn't have chanegd the outcome.

"I believe the defence advocate convinved the judge that Dylan went straight into the path of the car and and the accident was unavoidable."

Proceeding.