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Sunday, 31 August 2014

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Maryport biker died on way home from sister's 50th birthday

An experienced motorcyclist died in a crash on the way home from his sister’s 50th birthday party.

Christopher Denwood photo
Christopher Denwood

Christopher Rodger Denwood, 54, of Ritson Wharf, Maryport was riding his Triumph motor bike along the A591 at Dunmail Raise, by Thirlmere just before 11pm on July 7 last year when he hit a large boulder in the centre of the dual carriageway.

A pathologist said the rider had died instantly from multiple injuries.

Toxicology tests found cannabis in Mr Denwood’s blood which would have affected his concept of time and his ability to perform complex tasks like driving.

Mr Denwood, who attended Cockermouth Grammar School, had travelled to Yorkshire earlier that day, arriving around 4pm, and insisted on returning home the same night as he had a workman visiting the next day.

The inquest heard that the former computer architect had a history of mental health problems.

He was taking medication and had to stop working, but seemed to be turning a corner.

His brother Jonathon said: “He was starting to make plans for his future which he hadn’t done for some time.”

Mr Denwood had already successfully overcome alcohol problems which had seen him receive treatment at The Priory hospital.

Statements from drivers who saw Mr Denwood’s bike before the crash said he was not speeding or driving recklessly.

Minibus driver William Patterson was overtaken by the motorcycle shortly before the accident.

He said: “I thought it was unusual that the motorbike passed me at such a sedate speed.”

Ryan Blackburn, a chef at Cottage in the Wood at Whinlatter, was driving home to Cartmell and had just left the dual carriageway section of Dunmail Raise when Mr Denwood passed him heading the other way.

He said: “I saw the motorcycle and dismissed it straight away. There was nothing to cause any worry.”

But moments later, out of site of other drivers, Mr Denwood’s machine hit a boulder at the start of the Dunmail Raise dual carriageway.

Mr Denwood was thrown from the bike, which burst into flames.

Mr Patterson and minibus passenger Sally Ann Greenfield tried to help him but could not find a pulse.

Crash investigator PC Mark Dempster told the inquest that there were no defects with the road or the bike which could have caused the crash.

A tyre mark left on the road suggested Mr Denwood, perhaps tired and affected by the cannabis, had been following the centre line of the road to keep his position, he added.

PC Dempster said that where the single-carriageway road split, the left-hand part of the crosshatched road marking was worn and partly covered in stones.

He said that, coupled with seeing Mr Blackburn’s car approaching, could have led him to think the road went to the right.

By the time Mr Denwood saw the boulder, with a keep left sign attached, and braked it was too late.

Mr Denwood had ridden motorcycles since his teens and sometimes rode in Europe while travelling. His sister Susan Roberts, whose party he had been to, said: “It was a really lovely day. He was in good spirits.

“He was a very kind and considerate person.”

Their sister Judith, who was also at the party, said: “He was a really experienced driver. He hadn’t really had any accidents before.”

Coroner David Roberts said: “Lack of familiarity with the road can’t have been a factor in the accident. I think the cannabis and the fact it had been a long day driving home at night with perhaps an hour to go would be working in combination.”

Recording a verdict of accidental death, he said he would write to Cumbria County Council about the road markings.

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