A teen biker who died in a crash “made a mistake and paid for it with his life”, according to his dad.
Darcy Croke, a 19-year-old from Wormley, Hertfordshire, sadly died in a crash in Cheshunt Wash, near the roundabout and Halfhide Lane in Cheshunt on April 8 last year.
An inquest into the young man’s death was held at Hatfield Coroners Court on Monday (August 23).
Read more: Family of Cheshunt teen biker say their lives will never be the same again after he died in crash
The court heard how Darcy had been drinking before riding northbound on Cheshunt Wash at around 1.27am to return home.
While negotiating the road’s bend to the right, shortly after the Perrysfield Road junction but before the roundabout, Darcy hit the kerb and collided with the railings.
He was wearing a helmet while riding his black Yamaha YP 125cc scooter but was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics at 2am.
The scooter wasn’t insured, the MOT had expired in 2015 and it’s believed the vehicle was registered to a false name or address, although it had no mechanical defects and wasn’t reported as being stolen.
However, Darcy’s dad John was left unhappy with the outcome of the inquest, claiming the ruling was an “insult to his intelligence.”
Speaking to HertsLive after the hearing, Mr Croke explained how the inquest had left him wondering why a road defect had been disregarded as a contributory factor in the collision.
‘A plume of dust’
During the inquest hearing the court also heard how Darcy’s provisional licence didn’t allow him to drive that type of vehicle, a point refuted by family members at the hearing.
Assistant coroner Kevin Baumber heard evidence from PC Helen Carpenter of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit in Stevenage who told the court Darcy had been travelling on the road at around 1.27am.
He was travelling north on the 30mph Cheshunt Wash road, which is a single carriageway with two lanes, one for each direction, before colliding with the nearside kerb and railings.
A taxi driver who was driving around the area while waiting for a job was the only witness, although he said in a statement that he saw a “plume of dust” behind him and not the collision itself, instead seeing the bike sliding away from the barrier.
He called 999 to alert the ambulance services and there was no CCTV in the area that captured the collision.
PC Bruce Lister, forensic collision investigator, told the court he was called to the scene and arrived at 3.09am.
Carrying out an assessment of the area, he said the carriageway had broken white lines, reflective studs and the words “slow” painted ahead of the roundabout approach, while weather conditions were dry.
The high friction surface on the roundabout’s approach was “heavily worn” but, due to the road’s nature, will wear quicker than a normal road surface.
The road bends to the right at a 25 degree angle on the approach to the roundabout, the court was told, and Darcy would’ve had to manoeuvre around the bend.
“It’s not a hairpin but it needs significant input from the driver,” he added.
After carrying out skid tests on the southbound lane it was ascertained that the road had a “good level of grip” and didn’t contribute to the collision.
There was a road defect 9.5m before the collision, with the fissure sat 1.5m into the carriageway when measured from the nearside kerb. It was 55mm at its deepest and 100mm across.
PC Lister added that he “couldn’t find anything” to link the collision with the road defect as there was no physical evidence to show a tyre coming into contact with the fissure.
There was instead a gauge mark on the kerb running vertically, consistent with a vehicle rubbing against it, and the front left side of the bike sustained most of the damage.
“There’s evidence he collided with the edge of the railings,” said PC Lister.
At the scene, the fissure was reported to Herts County Council Highways as part of the procedure following a serious road traffic incident, and after checking it out the council deemed it not to fit their criteria for urgent repair.
However, it was brought to the attention of both the coroner and PC Lister by Darcy’s family that the road had been resurfaced two weeks later.
Herts Highways also provided police with collision reports from that area, noting eight recorded incidents between December 2014 and December 2019.
Of these, three were southbound, three were between vehicles entering the roundabout, one pulling out on Perrysfield Road and one involving a pedestrian crossing at the roundabout, and therefore none in the exact location of Darcy’s collision.
Inquests do not investigate every single death that happens, but will hear unexplained or suspicious deaths of individuals. They will hear from witnesses from organisations, health services, as well as officers and police who investigated the incidents.
The law says that the coroner must open an inquest into a death if there is a reasonable cause to suspect that the death was due to anything other than natural causes.
An inquest is a limited fact-finding inquiry to establish:
- Who died;
- When they died;
- Where they died;
- How they died; and
- Information needed by the Registrar of Deaths so the death can be registered.
There is a formal court setting and all must stand when the coroner enters and leaves the court.
It is very much in the public interest to have an effective inquest system, as it safeguards the legal rights of the deceased’s family and other interested persons. It highlights lessons to be learned and advances in medical knowledge.
Many families also find it helps to have the chance to ask questions to witnesses, and at the end of the process, know that they have the full and accurate facts about their loved one’s death.
“[It was a] coming together of the scooter and kerb rather than a catastrophic loss of control and hitting the barrier,” PC Lister told the court.
After conducting speed tests it was estimated that Darcy was going between 24mph and 32mph after the point of impact, but this is “likely to be an underestimate at the point of impact due to speed lost on hitting the barrier”.
“He probably wasn’t going exceptionally fast. I can’t say he wasn’t doing more than 30mph,” PC Lister said.
He added: “I believe that he was travelling north, there was the right hand bend and for whatever reason he’s drifted to the nearside and had this interaction with the kerb.
“I don’t think the road defect played a part for the reasons of no physical evidence but also because of the shallow trajectory of the interaction with the kerb.”
Darcy was wearing a helmet but no other protective gear, although PC Lister said it can’t be known whether extra clothing would have made a difference.
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In a post-mortem examination, toxicology reports showed that Darcy had both cocaine and alcohol in his system.
The alcohol sample, taken from urine only, was 267 mg of alcohol per decilitre, which is over double the drink-drive limit of 107 mg. However, the court was told this was difficult to quantify and may not reflect the true figure at the time of the collision due to how the body changes and decomposes after death, and no blood samples could be taken due to the amount of blood loss at the scene.
“The effects of alcohol and drugs are well documented and it can have a serious impact on an individual’s cognitive and decision making ability. This is likely to be a contributory in this incident,” added PC Lister.
In his summary, the assistant coroner ruled that the level of alcohol and cocaine in his system was “unquantifiable” but Darcy “had both substances in his system, likely to lead to an altered state while driving”, although added it was “not the direct cause of death”.
Mr Baumber, after hearing the evidence, ruled that it “can’t be inferred that the defect contributed to the collision”, and was satisfied that the weather conditions, condition of the bike, the speed at which he was travelling and the lack of a valid MOT certificate didn’t contribute to the collision.
The medical cause of death was recorded as 1a) multiple traumatic injuries, 1b) motor vehicular incident and 2) cocaine and alcohol use.
Mr Baumber, on the balance of probabilities, gave his verdict as a road traffic collision.
‘He had everything to live for’
Monday’s inquest was attended by Darcy’s dad John, step-mum Debbie and brother Ryan.
All three family members left the hearing midway through the coroner’s verdict and claim they’re dissatisfied by the evidence and verdict given in court.
Speaking to HertsLive after the hearing, Mr Croke said the ruling was an “insult to his intelligence” and left him wondering how the road defect was disregarded as a contributory factor.
“The main thing is the state of mind that they’re trying to portray that he must have been in to have his motorbike drift, so they say, this is how they put it, he’s drifted into the kerb and lost control at that point,” he said.
“To me, it’s an insult to my intelligence that they would say that they believe that fact.
“His journey was approximately a six-mile round trip, of which there were approximately three roundabouts, and I counted seven speed humps, two speed cameras and at no point there did he die.
“But then on his way back there happens to be this hole in the road and nobody thinks that hole in the road has got anything to do with his death, when he didn’t die all the way around that trip.”
Mr Croke accepts that Darcy didn’t do everything right that night, but feels the crack in the road must have contributed to his crash and claims the wheel of the scooter was pinched by the fissure.
He’s also been left “disappointed” at the way his son had been characterised and can’t understand why the road was resurfaced just two weeks later.
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“He had just got back from travelling for three months with his older brother Ryan,” he added.
“He’d been all through Thailand and Vietnam and Cambodia and he came back and he lost a lot of weight. Darcy was a boxer and he was then going back into training. He was going to start boxing and there was talk about going professional. That was his plan.
“He wasn’t a kid that was a loose cannon. He wasn’t. He had focus and he had a goal. He had absolutely everything to live for.
“He was stupid in playing around with the drugs and the drink that he did that night. It was lockdown, they couldn’t go anywhere, they were partying and he made a big, big error. It was the biggest error of his entire life. He got involved with things that he shouldn’t be getting involved with. A young lad who made a mistake and paid for it with his life.”
Mr Croke adds that he turned up to the inquest hoping for the truth to be heard which, in his eyes, wasn’t the case.
He left the hearing in Hatfield feeling like he had more questions, and still believes the road should at least have been acknowledged as a contributory factor.
He says his son had been driving bikes since he was eight years old and knew the local streets like the “back of his hand”, and claims Darcy’s wheels were pinched by the fissure.
“It’s as plain as the nose on your face to me and everyone around me,” he added.
“I know people look for things to blame. I’m not one of them, I’m a realist. If I thought for one minute that that didn’t have a part to play in this I would just give up with it.
“I think the whole thing marries. You can just see it.”
In Darcy’s memory, his family set-up a boxing sports clothing brand called “Boozakas Only“, with a percentage of the proceeds going to the National Autistic Society.
In a previous tribute for HertsLive, John said: “Honestly, he was a wonderful boy. He had just turned 19, had his whole life ahead of him and this tragedy happened.
“He was all about his family, very loyal, very funny and had the best character.
“He loved fighting and started boxing when he was eight. He had five fights and won them all.”
He added: “We want to cherish every single memory.
“The good, the bad, the funny and the sad.”
A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “Any death on Hertfordshire roads is a tragedy and our sympathies lie with those who have lost loved ones in any circumstance.
“The Coroner’s conclusion in this case was ‘Road Traffic Collision’ and does not mention any damage to the road as a contributing factor.”
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