Mechanical failure could have caused motorcycle crash which killed Marshland St James rider

Russell Coombes
Russell Coombes

“See you later, bro” were the last words Fenland man Russell Coombes said to his friend before he died in a motorcycle crash, an inquest has heard.

The 21-year-old, from Marshland St James, died when the rear wheel of his bike locked up – causing him to lose control. The accident happened in Spalding on December 29 last year.

At an inquest into Russell’s death, held in Spalding last week, senior collision investigator PC Godfrey Barlow told how the wheel lock-up could have been caused by either a mechanical failure in the gearbox or through Russell’s actions, such as him reacting to an obstacle or corner. He said it was not possible to say for certain which one was correct.

PC Barlow estimated that Russell had been travelling on his Yahama at a speed exceeding the 30mph limit but could only place that speed at between 34-54mph.

Russell’s stepfather Ray Edwards told the inquest he did not believe driving ability was a factor. He said: “He was a fantastic rider; he came off a few times but I believe it was more likely the mechanical failure.”

A statement given to police by Russell’s friend Shane Cummings told how the pair had been at his home in Spalding, where they had played his Xbox and ordered a takeaway.

Shane said he had been his ‘usual self’ and that the pair had not taken any illicit substances or alcohol because ‘Russell wasn’t into that sort of thing’. In his statement, he said: “Before Russell left, he said ‘see you later, bro’.”

A pathologist report said Russell suffered an unsurvivable skull fracture along with injuries to the ribs and heart.

PC Barlow said he was satisfied that road and weather conditions were not a factor and that there were no other vehicles on the road.

The coroner also heard that Russell had an A2 motorcycle licence for a 31kw motorcycle – but he was riding a 66.8kw motorcycle.

Russell, who used to be a a cadet with 272 (Wisbech) Squadron ATC, worked at Scania Truckeast, in King’s Lynn. He had a passion for both bikes and cars, and more than 400 drivers and bikers turned up to his funeral in January.

Coroner Murray Spittle concluded that Russell died as the result of a motorcycle collision.