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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 June 2007, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Cycle tragedy gritting 'mistake'
Emlyn Williams
Emlyn Williams had not been convinced there was problem
The highways engineer responsible for gritting an icy road where four cyclists died has admitted he wrongly told police it had been gritted.

Conwy Council official Robert Emlyn Williams also told an inquest a police complaint about ice on the road had not rung alarm bells.

The Rhyl Cycling Club members all died when a motorist lost control and collided with them near Abergele.

Police contacted Mr Williams an hour before that crash, the inquest heard.

That call told him of ice on the road a few miles from the point on the A547 near Abergele where the cyclists were fatally hit as they set off on a Sunday training ride to the Great Orme in Llandudno on 8 January, 2006.

Temperature drop

The inquest at Abergele town hall heard Mr Williams, who is known as Emlyn, told police he would send someone to check that area but, in fact, he decided to wait.

The jury heard when he was told the report of ice had come from a woman driver he said "(that) explains it all," and asked no more questions about the road conditions.

He said his comment about the information being from a woman motorist had been intended as "a joke" and added: "I wanted to know if the police were there...the public can give inaccurate reports."

He explained the weather forecast had not predicted a serious frost in that area or on the A547 where the cyclists' accident occurred.

In fact, the inquest heard, there had been a sudden drop in temperature that morning unknown to Mr Williams.

Pictured clockwise: Thomas Harland, Wayne Wilkes, Maurice Broadbent, Dave Horrocks
The four cyclists had just begun their training ride

The four cyclists - Thomas Harland, 14, Maurice Broadbent, 61, Dave Horrocks, 55, and Wayne Wilkes, 42 - were killed when the car driven by Robert Harris, 47, from Abergele, collided with the group.

North-east Wales coroner John Hughes put it to Mr Williams that the call from the police about the earlier skidding incident should have rung alarm bells.

"I accept what you are saying, but at the time it did not ring any alarm bells," Mr Williams replied.

He said it was simply a "mistake" to have told police it had been gritted that morning. He also explained it would have taken the gritting lorry an hour to arrive at the scene after the initial call.

Frozen puddles

The inquest jury earlier heard evidence that the fatal collision had been the third incident that day,

One witness said she had never seen so much frost on the roads.

Several witnesses said it was the coldest day for a long time, and recalled frozen puddles along the roadside.

The coroner has told the jury the route had not been gritted by Conwy Council that day, despite frost having been forecast.

Driver Robert Harris was fined 180 with 35 costs last August and given six points on his licence after admitting having defective tyres.

The court heard the defective tyres were not a factor in the accident.

The inquest continues and is expected to end next week.

Note: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated Mr Williams told the inquest he had made a mistake by not deploying gritting lorries. In fact he said his mistake had been to tell police the road had been gritted when it had not. We apologise for this error.




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"I didn't think there was a problem"



SEE ALSO
Cycle death driver 'not speeding'
15 Jun 07 |  North East Wales
Cycle death father tells of anger
14 Jun 07 |  North East Wales

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