Inquest reveals moments before Westbourne motorcyclist’s death

Joe Butland
Joe Butland

A MOTORCYCLIST died after colliding with a broken-down car and an oncoming vehicle in a tragic accident, a coroner ruled.

David Horsley said Joe Butland’s death was the result of ‘three people going about their everyday lives’ who came together at a single moment in time with tragic consequences.

The inquest yesterday (February 19) at Portsmouth Guildhall was told 25-year-old Mr Butland, from Edgell Road, Westbourne, was on his way home from work on his Kawasaki motorbike at Comley Hill – a country road between Rowlands Castle and Emsworth – when the crash happened at 4.05pm on September 28 last year.

Andrew Day, a farrier from Woodmancote, was in the road a few feet ahead of his broken-down Range Rover, which had run out of petrol just after a sharp bend.

The car was in the southbound lane with its hazard warning lights on and Mr Day was waving his arms around to warn oncoming traffic.

He ran to the start of the bend and was able to warn two cars so they were able to swerve past his 4x4 on the 40mph stretch.

He went back to refuel his car, but then heard a motorcycle coming and ran back down to the bend, the inquest heard.

Mr Day said: “I jumped into the grass verge. He was basically hurtling straight towards me.”

He said the Range Rover, bought a month prior to the accident, had been showing some electrical faults, but nothing untoward. He said no warning light had come on to say the car needed refuelling.

Meanwhile, Emma Gittins was driving a Nissan Qashqai in the northbound lane with her one-year-old baby.

The inquest heard Mr Butland’s motorbike clipped the Range Rover and crashed into the Nissan, throwing him off. He was knocked unconscious and died later at the scene from multiple injuries, the inquest was told.

Mrs Gittins said: “He appeared in front of me – like he came out of nowhere.”

Forensic investigator PC Ed Wilson said he thought Mr Butland was travelling at more than 40mph because of the damage to the motorcycle. However, this could not be scientifically proven.

Mr Horsley said speed was not the most important factor.

“It was the unexpected coming together of these three people and these three vehicles,” he said. “What’s certain is his (Joe’s) reaction to the hazard did not come until it was too late for him.”

He said everyone was ‘simply in the wrong place at the wrong time’ and recorded the death as an accident.

Family finally gets answers

JOE Butland’s family said getting the answers they needed had come as a relief.

His mum Lorraine Butland, of Adderbury Avenue, Emsworth, said: “It’s a relief. It’s been such a strain. It does not bring him back. I just want to be able to grieve now.”

Mr Butland’s dad, Paul Butland, 55, from Hilsea, said he would always question why the Range Rover, which had travelled from Clanfield, did not refuel at the petrol station in Rowlands


Mr Butland’s partner Chloe Jacobs, 23, of Edgell Road, Westbourne, said he would always be ‘a legend’. The pair have one baby daughter called Scarlett Jacobs.. Mr Butland grew up in Adderbury Avenue, Emsworth, and had attended Bourne Community College.

He had worked for six years at J&S Accessories, a motorcycling shop in London Road, Cowplain.

After the accident, his family said: “Joe was a massive bike and football (Arsenal) enthusiast, an amazing father and a top friend always smiling.

‘He was high on life, a top guy who will be truly missed and never forgotten. Always in our hearts. Enjoy the track in the sky. Godspeed. A true legend.”

At the inquest, coroner David Horsley said he would write to Hampshire County Council to ensure planned safety improvements – including repainting and clearing vegetation – were done as soon as possible at Comley Hill.