Coroner calls for M65 light rethink following Burnley man's death

Chorley Citizen: Coroner calls for M65 light rethink following Burnley man's death Coroner calls for M65 light rethink following Burnley man's death

A CORONER has called for a rethink on the decision to switch off the M65 lights at an inquest into a death crash victim.

Michael Singleton said he would send a report to the Highways Agency following the death of Burnley-born Mark Burgess, who was thrown from his car after hitting the central reservation near Junction 8.

An investigation found the 39-year-old was two-and-a-half times over the legal drink drive limit and his accident would not have been prevented had there been lights.

But Mr Singleton, senior coroner for Blackburn, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley, said those caught up in the ‘carnage’ after the incident would have had a chance of avoiding the debris if the lights were on.

Mr Singleton said: “I am aware that the people that came across this were not people that were driving recklessly. These were people who were driving quite normally, who it seems to me did not have a chance of avoiding the debris that was in the road.

“I am required to make a report if it is that I believe that there are a set of circumstances which, if not changed, may lead to fatalities in the future.

“I therefore indicate that I will be preparing a report for the Highways Agency inviting them to reconsider the situation with regards to the street lighting on this stretch of the M65 motorway.”

It was also revealed that the reflection of the cats’ eyes on the stretch was not adequate and that the part of the central barrier Mr Burgess crashed into did not meet current specifications, although it would have when the motorway was built. The Highways Agency has planned to rectify these two issues.

The court was told Mr Burgess was last seen in the Lowerhouse Members Club, in Burnley, at around 10pm on November 23 last year.

He set off westbound on the M65 towards his partner Kirsty Tipping’s house, in Bolton Road, Abbey Village, although he had not been living there with her in the days leading up to his death because of bail conditions.

Miss Tipping said she had invited him to celebrate her daughter’s birthday with them, but had gone to the bingo in Blackburn first.

Because her phone was on silent she missed several calls from him.

When she went on Facebook after leaving the bingo hall, she saw Mr Burgess, a HGV driver, had posted a message which read: “I will only be ignored for so long. I am turning my phone off and going out.”

Mr Burgess’s mobile was recovered from the scene and it emerged he had tried to call Miss Tipping at 10.53pm, around the time the crash is believed to have happened.

Senior collision investigator PC Richard Roberts said it was probable Mr Burgess had also not been wearing a seatbelt.

He said had he been wearing one, the collision ‘was survivable’.

The inquest heard statements from motorists travelling in two Ford Kas, a blue MG and an ambulance, which were all caught up in the aftermath.

Charlie Smith, who was a passenger in her friend Sophie Eland’s car travelling from Burnley to Accrington, said: “It was absolutely pitch black and you could see no further than the beam the headlights gave off.

“It was so, so dark.”

The Lancashire Telegraph has launched a campaign urging the Highways Agency to turn the lights back on.

The Agency manages the motorway from junction one to 10. The lights were turned off between junctions seven and 10 in 2011 to reduce carbon emissions.

Junctions 10 to 14, where the lights are turned off between midnight and 5am, are maintained by Lancashire County Council.

Statistics from the Highways Agency were read out to the court detailing how experts believed the rate of casualties would increase by 0.06 annually once the lights had been turned off.

Mr Singleton concluded Mr Burgess died from multiple injuries as a result of a road traffic collision. He said: "I understand it is all very well using these statistics, but it seems to me that there is a certain false promise.

“In my experience, you rely upon what the vehicle in front of you can see. In that way, if you are in a line of traffic, you do not need the lights because everybody is doing that for you.

“If, however, there is nobody on the road, you do not have that opportunity.”

After the hearing, a Highways Agency spokesman said: “Safety is our top priority and we will therefore carefully consider any issues raised by the coroner as a result of the inquest.”

Miss Tipping said: “It is just a shame this did not happen before. It should have been done as a matter of urgency.”

To sign the Lancashire Telegraph petition to have the lights switched back on, visit www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk

Comments (6)

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8:45am Wed 19 Feb 14

HarryBosch says...

My deepest sympathies to Mr Burgess family. I would like to make two observations around this story. Firstly, once again, a young family are left devastated by the untimely death of this young man. This story, once again, highlights the dangers of drink driving. It is always the families who are left to pick up the pieces and whose lives are changed because of the selfish acts of these grossly irresponsible drivers. This was the at least the second death as a result of drink/drug driving in the space of a month in East Lancashire late last year. The other being the case of Oliver Jones who left behind a grieving mother and father as well as a wider circle of family and friends. Which brings me on to the second issue, that being the issue of the lighting on this stretch of motorway. We now know the cause of the initial collision but other lives were put at risk by the resulting debris littering the carriageway. I said at the time that, whilst the original intentions of the council was saving money for the taxpayers of Lancashire was legitimate, it should not be done by putting lives at risk. It is impossible to see debris in the carriageway in the aftermath of an accident at night. I am glad that the coroner has recognised this and taken the necessary steps to have the policy reviewed.
Once again, I extend my deepest sympathies to both the families concerned.
My deepest sympathies to Mr Burgess family. I would like to make two observations around this story. Firstly, once again, a young family are left devastated by the untimely death of this young man. This story, once again, highlights the dangers of drink driving. It is always the families who are left to pick up the pieces and whose lives are changed because of the selfish acts of these grossly irresponsible drivers. This was the at least the second death as a result of drink/drug driving in the space of a month in East Lancashire late last year. The other being the case of Oliver Jones who left behind a grieving mother and father as well as a wider circle of family and friends. Which brings me on to the second issue, that being the issue of the lighting on this stretch of motorway. We now know the cause of the initial collision but other lives were put at risk by the resulting debris littering the carriageway. I said at the time that, whilst the original intentions of the council was saving money for the taxpayers of Lancashire was legitimate, it should not be done by putting lives at risk. It is impossible to see debris in the carriageway in the aftermath of an accident at night. I am glad that the coroner has recognised this and taken the necessary steps to have the policy reviewed. Once again, I extend my deepest sympathies to both the families concerned. HarryBosch

10:44am Wed 19 Feb 14

woolywords says...

As someone whom regularly travels up and down the M6, where large sections of it are unlit, I echo both the Coroners and Harry's comment regarding the difficulty in seeing objects on the road, in the dark, especially on cloudy nights.
Whilst I appreciate the need for cost savings and reductions in Carbon emission, I thought that the whole point of these lights being installed in the first place, was to increase safety rather than increase the risk of accidents, by whatever percentage points. It seems rather farcical that one agency has a policy that doesn't chime with another, along the same stretch of road. We should hope that they see sense and rectify this inequity, as soon as practicable, rather than wait for the Coroners letter.
My son-in-law is a Paramedic and I know that they are trained to a much higher degree, to be able to drive vehicles, at terrifying speeds, in all weather conditions and as such, when one of their own was unable to evade the debris from this accident, in a specially conditioned vehicle, it speaks volumes to the rest of us, the mere pootlers.
As someone whom regularly travels up and down the M6, where large sections of it are unlit, I echo both the Coroners and Harry's comment regarding the difficulty in seeing objects on the road, in the dark, especially on cloudy nights. Whilst I appreciate the need for cost savings and reductions in Carbon emission, I thought that the whole point of these lights being installed in the first place, was to increase safety rather than increase the risk of accidents, by whatever percentage points. It seems rather farcical that one agency has a policy that doesn't chime with another, along the same stretch of road. We should hope that they see sense and rectify this inequity, as soon as practicable, rather than wait for the Coroners letter. My son-in-law is a Paramedic and I know that they are trained to a much higher degree, to be able to drive vehicles, at terrifying speeds, in all weather conditions and as such, when one of their own was unable to evade the debris from this accident, in a specially conditioned vehicle, it speaks volumes to the rest of us, the mere pootlers. woolywords

12:25pm Wed 19 Feb 14

jimpy0 says...

to "pootle" means to drive at a leisurely pace within ones own limits and according to the road being traveled, and not like some clunge trying to arrive yesterday
to "pootle" means to drive at a leisurely pace within ones own limits and according to the road being traveled, and not like some clunge trying to arrive yesterday jimpy0

2:32pm Wed 19 Feb 14

A Darener says...

Just because a motorway speed limit is 70 MAX. Doesn't mean you have to drive at that limit. If you can't see what is in front of you at speed, then DON'T speed! Drive within safe limits and you will be able to stop for any obstruction.
Just because a motorway speed limit is 70 MAX. Doesn't mean you have to drive at that limit. If you can't see what is in front of you at speed, then DON'T speed! Drive within safe limits and you will be able to stop for any obstruction. A Darener

9:54pm Wed 19 Feb 14

laureneverett86@hotmail.co.uk says...

I hope this man's family will be able to move on from this now. I got so much stick from this man's family for stating facts that he had all over his Facebook all about his drinking session right before the crash that not only cost him his life but also destroyed innocent people's lives and took away people's way of earning a living. This was a very selfish careless act not only was this man Drunk but he was also on the phone on a dangerous motorway. What an absolute idiot I am surprised not more people lost their life to him. I know the family won't like what I have to say but he really didn't care how many lives he destroyed did he!!!
I hope this man's family will be able to move on from this now. I got so much stick from this man's family for stating facts that he had all over his Facebook all about his drinking session right before the crash that not only cost him his life but also destroyed innocent people's lives and took away people's way of earning a living. This was a very selfish careless act not only was this man Drunk but he was also on the phone on a dangerous motorway. What an absolute idiot I am surprised not more people lost their life to him. I know the family won't like what I have to say but he really didn't care how many lives he destroyed did he!!! laureneverett86@hotmail.co.uk

4:18pm Thu 20 Feb 14

hasslem hasslem says...

A Darener wrote:
Just because a motorway speed limit is 70 MAX. Doesn't mean you have to drive at that limit. If you can't see what is in front of you at speed, then DON'T speed! Drive within safe limits and you will be able to stop for any obstruction.
what utter nonsense!!
[quote][p][bold]A Darener[/bold] wrote: Just because a motorway speed limit is 70 MAX. Doesn't mean you have to drive at that limit. If you can't see what is in front of you at speed, then DON'T speed! Drive within safe limits and you will be able to stop for any obstruction.[/p][/quote]what utter nonsense!! hasslem hasslem

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