AN EXPERIENCED motorcyclist who was more than twice the drink-drive limit was killed when he crossed into the path of an oncoming car, an inquest heard.
Michael Webb of Sidney Lane in Hordle, died a day after his 58th birthday, on 14th September last year.
Winchester Coroner’s Court heard how he had been drinking at the Royal Oak in Downton with his wife Zoe, who had left earlier than him to return home to feed their dog, less than one mile away.
Motorist James Coleman told the court he was driving with his partner Sheralee Coles to get a takeaway when he was involved in a collision with Mr Webb just after 8pm.
The court heard how as he travelled on Hordle Lane he saw the glare of a headlight ahead as he was approaching a sharp left-hand bend, so turned his lights to dipped beam and began slowing down.
“From that point, it was instant”, Mr Coleman said, “I didn’t have time to react physically or even verbally. It was instantaneous. I looked around [after getting out of the car] and I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t hear a person, it was silent.”
While Mr Coleman called the emergency services, Ms Coles searched for the motorcyclist. She found it in a hedgerow and then they came across Mr Webb in a ditch parallel to the road.
Mr Coleman told the court that the rider was breathing but not responsive and he said he was told by the emergency call handler to carry out CPR, which was done by Ms Coles. The emergency services arrived 25 minutes later but Mr Webb passed away at the scene.
In a statement, Katie Mills, a barworker at the Royal Oak, said she had seen Mr Webb in the pub with his wife and another friend. Although he did not seem drunk, she was aware he had ordered three pints of beer during his time there. However, he was the type to sit quietly and drink and was “not raucous”.
Around 7.50pm, she recalled Mr Webb got up to leave. She said: “I did feel concerned he was going home on his motorbike and I said to him, ‘you’re not riding are you?’ and he said ‘no, Kate’ with a little smile.”
Ms Mills said she also overheard a customer offer Mr Webb a lift but he declined and was heard to say “I’m going to push it home”.
Pathologist Dr Adrian Bateman, who carried out the post mortem examination, gave the cause of Mr Webb’s death as multiple injuries. A blood test revealed he was almost two-and-a-half times the drink-drive limit.
Police forensic collision investigator Anthony Clifford said the road has no markings or signs warning of bends, but Mr Webb would have been familiar with it as he lived nearby.
His Honda motorbike had suffered front end impact damage while the BMW driven by Mr Coleman had extensive damage to the offside. Neither had any pre-collision defects.
He said he believed Mr Webb had made an attempt to shorten the bend by driving straight through it, putting him in the centre of the road at the time of the accident.
His impairment from alcohol consumption was a “major contributing factor” to the crash, he added.
Mr Clifford said Mr Coleman, who passed a breathalyser and drugs test at the scene, and had been travelling at around 30mph, which was under the 40-limit. Both drivers would have had little time to react and avoid the collision, he concluded.
Recording a verdict that Mr Webb died as a result of a road traffic collision,Coroner Graham Short said: “I believe he was intoxicated and he was riding his motorcycle home while under the influence of alcohol.
“It is worth noting that Mike had only ridden about 300 metres after leaving the pub. It was dark and there was no street lighting, so he was totally reliant on his motorcycle’s headlight.
“The physical evidence does show that the motorcycle was close to the centre of the road as it went round the bend.
“The effects of alcohol are likely to have affected Mike’s reactions to the approaching car and he did not respond to the presence of headlights coming towards him.”
Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Coleman told the A&T she was “so grateful” to Mr Coleman and Ms Coles for their attempt to save Mr Webb and said to carry out CPR for 25 minutes was “incredible”.
She added: “I want people to understand that I don’t blame them. It’s a horrendous piece of road. At least Mike wasn’t on his own when he died.”
‘Loving, nutty and hardworking’
Mr Webb grew up in Hordle and after attending Arnewood School worked as an HGV driver travelling all over the UK and Europe.He drove for the Emlor polo team, and local companies including McCarthy & Stone and G. Farwell Ltd. He also carried out roofing work with his older brother David.
Mr Webb‘s passion for biking began very early in life as a member of the Ringwood Schoolboys Scrambling Club from the age of four until he was 13. He was also in a motorbike display team in the early 1970s.
He married his first wife Jackie when he was 20, and he became stepfather to her five children. After the marriage ended in divorce he met Zoe in the late 1990s while she was working at the Three Bells pub in Hordle.
Their relationship blossomed when the couple went on to work together for Farwells as drivers. They married in 2005 during a brief spell living in Durham.
Following his death, she described him as “loving, hardworking, loyal, nutty, and mischievous”.