Snetterton race death crash unavoidable, inquest told

There was nothing a father-of-two killed at a Snetterton motorbike race could do to avoid a 'catastrophic' pile-up, an inquest heard.

Creative graphic designer Simon Exton died from what the pathologist described as 'unsurvivable injuries' after being involved in a crash at the starting line of Snetterton Circuit on Sunday, March 28 last year.

The crash was caused after a rider at the front struggled to start his motorcycle as the 36-strong race began, leading to riders behind, including Mr Exton, unable to avoid collision.

And it was following a verdict of accidental death, delivered by jury following the coroner William Armstrong's instruction, that his partner of seven years Suzie Foxton paid tribute to the man she was due to marry just before Christmas.

'He was the most amazing man and the love and light of my life. I'm just lost without him,' she said, adding 'he was charismatic and caring and wanted to help everyone. My life will never be the same.'

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The inquest, held at Norwich Cornoner's Court yesterday, heard that Mr Exton, of Plaistour, Surrey, had been racing motorcycles for three years. It was a career started alongside Max, one of two sons.

More used to riding 400cc bikes, it was his first race in the Thunderbike category, and having failed to qualify in the previous day's racing he started in the back row.

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Reading out a report from Joe Duggan, a rider in the front row at the 9.30am race, PC Robert Hardingham described how Mr Duggan came into difficulties with his bike as the race was due to begin.

'My bike cut out, so I got it restarted, and the red lights came on [ahead of the start] I went to find the biting point on the clutch.

'Realising it wasn't in gear I went to put it in gear but as I pulled away it was in neutral. The next thing I knew someone had hit me from behind and I was flipped into the air.'

The inquest heard how this moment led to what another rider, Cameron Hall described as 'mayhem'. Having come off his Suzuki, he was clipped twice by other riders and said: 'someone came over and took a bike off me, and when I looked around I was staggered by what I saw.

'It looked like someone had taken a great big and dumped the bikes on the track from 50ft. It was incredible.'

Norfolk Police forensic investigator PC Wendy Biddle was called to the scene after news that Mr Exton, who was struck by a motorbike after coming off his Ducati in the incident, had been pronounced dead at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital at 12.40pm that day.

She said the cause was human, not mechanical, error, and emphasised that with light racing bikes the speed at the start was such that there would be no time to react or avoid a collision. This was even more true for bikes at the back, she added.

The inquest heard that races initially continued after the crash before news of Mr Exton's death.

However, director of joint race organisers the British Motorcycle Club Anthony MacBride said this was normal policy, while it was added that with eight on site ambulance and more than 100 marshals, the site had more than the recommended provision. The circuit is owned by Motorsport Vision.PC Biddle said that the continuance of racing had not altered the evidence enough for her to feel it had affected her conclusions.

Closing the inquest, Mr Armstrong said: 'Once the initial problem arose there was nothing that anyone could do. There was bound to be a very serious problem and the likely hood of a catastrophic event taking place.'

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