Jury recommends fatigue checks for motorcyclists competing in time trials

Inquest hears 41 year old motorcyclist died after colliding with large bales of hay


The Motorcycle Union of Ireland should include a question on fatigue and rest periods for participants in its events, a jury has recommended following the death of a 41 year old rider at a time trial in West Cork last year.

West Cork Coroner Frank O’Connell welcomed the recommendation at the inquest into the death of Frank Conlon, even though there was no conclusive evidence that fatigue and lack of rest was a factor in his death at the event held by the West Cork Motorcycle Club.

Mr Conlon, from Drumsloe, Clones in Co Monaghan, had travelled from London to Clones on the day before the event and then drove to West Cork, the inquest heard. Arriving around 1am, he slept in his van.

Mr Conlon was competing in the D class event on his Suzuki GSX 750cc and had already completed three successful runs on the closed road uphill course when he failed to take a right hand bend and collided with some large bales of hay which were being used to provide protection for competitors.

Witness Frank Ring told the inquest he was spectating at the right hand bend when he saw Mr Conlon approach but he failed to take the bend and lost control of the bike, first hitting the fourth large bale and then hitting another two after he was thrown from his bike.

Steward Robert Vaughan said Mr Conlon didn’t ease back on the throttle or move down the gears as he approached the bend and he was thrown over the handlebars of the bike after he collided with the bales.

“It was the only bike that didn’t brake approaching the bend - it just didn’t make sense - he had been up a couple of times before without any problem, “ said Mr Vaughan whose evidence about Mr Conlon not changing down the gears was corroborated by fellow steward Pat Kenny.

The inquest heard Mr Conlon’s bike and protective gear had been examined by scrutineers from the Motorcycle Union of Ireland before the time trial and found to be in good working condition but the inquest heard that he landed heavily and ended up suffering serious head and neck injuries.

Scrutineer Paul Hurley confirmed that participants filled in their own medical check list questionnaire but this did not include any questions about whether they had had sufficient rest.

PSV inspector Garda Thomas Brosnan examined the motorbike after the crash and concluded that it had been in perfect working order.

Forensic crash investigator Garda Ray Sweeney estimated Mr Conlon would have been doing a possible maximum speed of 65kph and could not have been travelling at less than 41kph when he lost control of the bike and collided with the bales.

Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest that Mr Conlon died from traumatic brain injury and upper cervical spinal cord injury consistent with a motorcycle accident and would have died almost instantly on impact.

Mr O’Connell asked the jury to consider the question of whether Mr Conlon had adequate rest and he thanked them for their deliberations in returning verdict of accidental death along with the recommendation for the Motorcycle Union of Ireland to include a question on fatigue in their form.

He extended his sympathies to Mr Conlon’s family on their tragic loss and to the West Cork Motorcycle Club, who had hosted what was intended to be an enjoyable day’s racing only for it to turn to tragedy and it must have been very distressing for all involved in organising the event.