Coach crash inquest raises questions over tyre safety

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The driver and two passengers were killed when the Merseypride-operated vehicle crashed following a tyre blowout last September

Inquests into victims of the Hindhead coach crash have returned a verdict of accidental death, prompting scrutiny over the current legislation regarding the age of PCV tyres.

Last September a 52-seater EOS coach, operated by Liverpoolbased Merseypride Travel, crashed at 2350hrs as it travelled to Merseyside from the Bestival music festival on the Isle of Wight.

The nearside front tyre, which was found to be 19 years old, suffered a blowout causing the coach to mount the bank next to the A3 and smash into nearby trees.

Driver Colin Daulby, 63, and passengers Kerry Ogden, 23, and Michael Molloy, 18, were killed.

Tyre expert David Price, who was asked by Surrey Police to compile a report after the incident, said several of the six tyres on the coach were old, and described the one which burst as “abnormally old”.

One dated to 2001 while the spare was 14 years old. Mr Price said the tyre had been falling apart internally for months and it was only half worn, so had either been a spare or in storage for a lengthy period.

“If you burst a tyre you get a noise,” said Mr Price. “It doesn’t tend to be a massive noise, but you certainly do hear it. It seems probable the burst had happened and caused the coach to mount the nearby verge. The driver is likely to have had very little advance warning apart from severe vibrations to the tyre.”

At the inquest conducted in Woking on July 16, Coroner Richard Travers said he could find no other cause for the coach veering off the road other than the tyre blowout. After recording his verdict Mr Travers said: “I formally announce I will be writing a rule-43 report to draw attention to the Transport Minister of the dangers caused by the fact that vehicles, be they private, commercial or public are legally able to drive on tyres without restriction on age and by reason of age are potentially in a perilous condition which there is no realistic means of detecting.”

The inquest heard from PC Dominic Gibson, of Surrey Police’s collision investigation unit.

Mr Travers asked him why witnesses had not seen brake lights on the coach prior to the crash, which caused “catastrophic damage” to the nearside front end as it was crushed back by about three metres into the main body.

PC Gibson said the lack of brake lights could have been due to a number of issues. He explained that in a scenario where the coach was most likely travelling at 28 metres per second, Mr Daulby would have had less than three seconds to react after the tyre blowout before the vehicle hit the trees.

He suggested that a “professional driver” may have thought it best not to suddenly apply the brakes “because it is going to add more weight to the damaged wheel”.

“He would try to keep the coach going in a straight line or try gradual braking,” added PC Gibson.

Mr Daulby was described as a safe and considerate driver who loved his part-time job with the firm. Tests showed he had not consumed alcohol or drugs.

Surrey Police said Merseypride was due to appear at Guildford Magistrates’ Court on August 12 charged with using a defective tyre on the coach and carrying an extra person. The charge refers to a different tyre from the one which caused the crash.