Talented cyclist Raj Soni died after failing to negotiate bend in Dundry Lane, inquest told
A TALENTED teenage cyclist died after hitting a stone pillar as he negotiated a dangerous bend in the road at high speed, an inquest heard.
Raj Soni, 18, collided with the pillar after mounting the pavement on a sharp downhill bend in Dundry Lane where cyclists often came off their bikes and injured themselves.
The inquest heard the teenager either lost control of his racing bike due to his speed or swerved to avoid a pothole on a route his family said he had ridden hundreds of times.
Raj, who lived in Bower Ashton with his parents and elder sister, died in intensive care at Frenchay Hospital from a head injury two days after the accident on July 30 last year.
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The experienced rider had joined Bristol Cycling Development Squad (BCDS) when he was 11 years old but latterly was a member of Bristol Road Club.
The student hit a gate pillar outside the home of Susan Flower, who the inquest in Flax Bourton heard had previously gone to the aid of several cyclists who had fallen off their bikes on the tight bend in the road.
In a statement read to the hearing, she said she had seen Raj cycling at high speed down the hill towards the A38 at just after 5pm, "visibly faster" than other cyclists that she had spotted using the popular cycling route.
She heard a crash, called the emergency services and took a towel and some water outside to help the cyclist, but found he was lying unconscious on the ground seriously injured and bleeding heavily from his head.
"I went out to help the paramedics, held the cyclist's hand and covered him in a blanket. But there was nothing else I could have done for him," Ms Flower said.
She said she had campaigned for warning signs to be installed on the bend due to the number of accidents which had happened at the spot.
Nicki Cohen, a lecturer in neuropathology, said Raj had sustained a "devastating and unsurvivable head injury".
PC Andrew Grigg, who investigated the collision, said there were warnings signs and road markings advising road users to slow down ahead of the bend.
He said: "There are no records of fatalities and we have no data for any accidents at that point. There could have been accidents there which no one recorded.
"We have spoken to the Somerset traffic authorities and we've talked through what was there. Other than more regimented hedge trimming, there's nothing which would alert drivers to the bend. Everything that could have been done had been done."
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Avon's deputy coroner Terry Moore said Raj had been wearing a helmet and had been travelling down the hill in a "fast but controlled manner".
He said: "Mr Soni hit the gate pillar of a house. Sadly, he does so with the upper part of his body, sustaining a cracked helmet and a very serious head injury. He never recovered consciousness.
"As to quite why he and his cycle mounted the pavement at that point, there appear to be two possibilities. He could have simply misjudged the bend in terms of speed or has travelled down and seen one or other of these minor potholes and on avoiding that has lost his line and come away and hit the gate post."
When the accident happened, Raj had just left Bristol Cathedral School where he sat A-Levels in psychology, philosophy and ethics, and sports studies.
The school's principal Neil Blundell said Raj was a "tremendously popular" student who was a gifted cross country runner and footballer with a passion for cycling.
Following his death, his friends and relatives took part in a 30-mile cycle ride from Bristol to Cheddar in his memory.