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Safety practices for pothole repairs change after death of “heroic” RAF airman Tom Pattison on A47

PUBLISHED: 10:42 19 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:16 19 September 2017

RAF airman Tom Pattison died on the A47 at scarning after colliding with a lorry. Picture: Pattison family.

RAF airman Tom Pattison died on the A47 at scarning after colliding with a lorry. Picture: Pattison family.

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Highways officers have changed safety practices for repairing potholes after “devoted and heroic” RAF senior aircraftman Tom Pattison died in a collision on the A47.

Norfolk Coroner’s Court heard how the 26-year-old Afghanistan veteran, of Sir Archdale Road in Swaffham, had been riding his Harley Davidson beside an Audi A7 towards Dereham at Scarning on April 4 as it overtook a parked maintenance van carrying out repairs - into the oncoming path of an articulated lorry.

One witness, Christian Paine, said it was as if “four lanes of traffic had formed”.

“The gap was getting smaller and the bike had nowhere to go,” he told the inquest.

Simon Greaves was the road maintenance foreman for Ameys repairing potholes between the Hardwick and Easton roundabouts.

As the work would take under 15 minutes, he said “we did not have to put out warning signs”.

“Leading up to the pothole we put our beacons on and we have four-way lights on top of the vehicle which flash all the time,” he told the court. “It is down to the traffic to make their own way around us - which is the safest way.”

The first Mr Greaves knew of the accident was the Audi clipping his vehicle.

“My initial thought was a damn sales rep has hit us,” he said, before he saw Mr Pattison.

He said: “I thought he had died from the impact and returned to my vehicle to call emergency services.”

He added seeing members of the public taking pictures on their phones was “disgusting”.

Stephen Jones, the driver of the DAF lorry travelling towards Swaffham, described seeing the Ford maintenance van in the opposite lane and thought it was broken down, as no warning signs were visible. When the Audi pulled out from behind he thought “this is going to be tight”.

He said: “I was less than 100 feet away from the maintenance van when I saw the motorcycle appear around the rear of the Audi.”

Collision investigator PC Forbes-Scott said in his report: “The A47 was in a poor to average state of repair, with cracked repairs evident.

“The actions of all the drivers in some way contributed to the circumstances of the collision,” he concluded. “If any or all of them took different action it may not have occurred. The main cause was the Harley Davidson being positioned on the oncoming side of the road.”

Total and utter sadness

The family of Mr Pattison have said they are “devastated” at the loss of a “brave, funny and unbelievably kind” man.

In a statement, they said: “Our whole family irreparably changed the day my loving son Tom was taken. He was my heroic, brave, funny and unbelievably kind son. A devoted brother, nephew and cousin. He was a true friend.

“His friends who served with him in the RAF regiment were equally devastated. He saw service in Afghanistan and distinguished himself with professionalism, honour and selfless courage - earning the respect of all who served with him.

“Tom had enormous potential and was a real credit to the military overall and his corps in particular.

“We are now trying, as best we know, to rebuild our lives without him. This is, and will be, no easy task considering the love we all had for him and the total and utter sadness his death has caused throughout the family.”

Highways changes

Following the death of Mr Pattison, standard practice across the road network for pothole repairs has been changed, adding more warning signs and including the use of an impact protection vehicle.

Area coroner Yvonne Blake said she had received “various comments from members of the public” about the A47 as a result of the case.

“I asked questions of highways and it does not seem as though the condition of the road surface itself was in any way a contributory factor,” she said.

“The highways department now put extra signage out, which I am very glad to hear because that must make it safer for everybody.

“None of the people involved in this seem to have been doing anything extraordinary.

“We have got four vehicles on what is a highway which only has room safely for two and a collision occurred which robbed a young man of his life.”

She recorded a conclusion of multiple injuries following a road traffic collision.

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