Update: Kesgrave chef Michael Ambrose’s death was ‘misadventure’, inquest rules
12:04 11 February 2016
The death of a young Kesgrave chef involved in a fatal crash in Suffolk was due to misadventure, an inquest has ruled.
Michael Ambrose, 29, of Kesgrave, died after a collision involving the Suzuki GSX-R750 motorbike he was riding and a Land Rover Discovery on the B1078 near Otley in July 2014.
The head chef at the Westerfield Railway pub was described by his fiancée April Scott, 23, as her “knight in shining armour” and by his family as “loyal, loving and funny” in the days after the incident.
Today, his family have urged anyone who has recently bought a motorbike or is thinking of buying one to get it checked by a specialist, as they paid tribute to him after the emotional two-day inquest, which finished today.
The inquest in Ipswich heard how Mr Ambrose, a former Claydon High School student, and his best friend Kieren Barrett, who was also riding a motorbike, both overtook a delivery van moments before Mr Ambrose “lost control” of his Suzuki and collided with a Land Rover, which was towing a trailer, in the opposite direction (westbound).
Mr Ambrose’s Suzuki experienced a “speed wobble” which he tried to correct, in an effort to regain control of his motorbike, before the fatal collision.
The incident took place on the stretch of road between the Swilland and Ashbocking junctions on the B1078 at around 12.15pm on July 29, 2014.
Forensic collision investigator sergeant Kevin Stark, of Suffolk Constabulary, an experienced motorcyclist, said he would have also overtaken the “slow” van – which the inquest heard was travelling at around 40mph – in the same circumstances.
But he said a “perfect storm” of a number of factors, including the undulating road, the speed at which Mr Ambrose was travelling, adjustments made to the Suzuki’s geometry and suspension, Mr Ambrose possibly moving away from a verge soon after overtaking the van, and Mr Ambrose’s experience (he had held his motorbike licence for around 18 months), when combined, may have led to the speed wobble which ultimately led to the collision.
Giving evidence, Mr Barrett said if Mr Ambrose had let go earlier, rather than trying to hold on to the motorbike during the speed wobble, he may have survived.
“You can’t buy experience,” he added.
Mr Ambrose was riding in front of Mr Barrett when they “safely” overtook the van, and it was shortly after overtaking the van that they built up speed to around 80mph, Mr Barrett said.
The inquest also heard the two motorcyclists were travelling at a “crazy” speed in the 60mph zone. Different speeds of 75mph, 80mph and 100mph were provided by witnesses.
Today, Kevin McCarthy, senior assistant coroner for Suffolk, recorded a verdict of misadventure. He said Mr Ambrose died of multiple injuries as a result of a road traffic collision.
Mr McCarthy said there were “many uncertainties” about the speed at which Mr Ambrose was travelling. But he said that he accepted that Mr Ambrose “exceeded the national speed limit” before the collision.
He said the overtaking of the van was a “perfectly acceptable manoeuvre”.
“It was after this that it went awry,” he said.
He said he could “not come to terms” with PC Stark’s description of a “perfect storm”. But he said a “concatenation” of the undulating road surface which has “bumps in it”, the speed at which Mr Ambrose was travelling, the adjusted geometry of his bike, and his experience, when combined, led to the “catastrophe”.
Mr McCarthy also quoted TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral during his conclusion.
Quoting the play, which portrays the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, he said: “In the small circle of pain within the skull, you still shall tramp and tread one endless round, of thought, to justify your action to yourselves, weaving a fiction which unravels as you weave, pacing forever in the hell of make-believe.”
Addressing the parents of Mr Ambrose, who Mr McCarthy said had conducted themselves with “stoicism and dignity”, he said: “I hope the conclusion (of this inquest) means you do not have to pace forever in the hell of make-believe.”
He added that he hoped the conclusion of the inquest will allow them to “draw a line” over Mr Ambrose’s death.
Mr McCarthy also praised Mr Barrett for showing “courage” when giving his evidence.
No-one involved in the incident failed a police breath test, the inquest also heard.