A teenage boy died after falling off a modified electric bike borrowed from a friend. Owen David Jones asked to borrow his friend Marley’s bike, which was not road legal, as they walked with another friend, Jack, on May 11 this year. Owen set off down the hill and when he hadn’t returned after 10 minutes his friends became concerned.
At the bottom of the hill, Marley and Jack found Owen lying unconscious, bleeding, with his head against the kerb. Owen was airlifted to hospital where doctors discovered he had suffered a catastrophic brain injury with several fractures.
Owen had been placed on ‘quadruple’ sedation, to shut down his brain and see if the pressure would reduce. Just over half an hour later, Owen went into cardiac arrest and he died. An inquest at Preston Coroner’s Court heard that Owen’s brain injury had caused his heart to become unstable with a rate of more than 150 beats per minute.
Dr Sudhi Kulkarni, an emergency medicine consultant, told the inquest. “The pressure in Owen’s brain was 80mm whereas normally it should be between 15mm and 20mm.
“[Surgery] wasn’t [immediately] an option for Owen because his brain pressure was so high that it would have caused him to die on the table and bleed out. He would have died instantly.”
Dr Kulkarni reassured the family that ‘at no point would he have been in any pain’.
Pc Martin Ward, a collision investigator, found the bike, which was not road legal, had been modified and had no rear brake pads.
“Because it wasn’t road legal there were no requirements for [the manufacturer] to conform to because [the bike] shouldn’t have been on the road,” Pc Ward said. “The bike was found in sport mode… sensors had also been removed which would have shut off power to the bike when the brakes were applied.”
Despite noting a number of modifications on the electric bike, to allow full power, Pc Ward said they had not contributed to the crash. He concluded that Owen had fully applied the front brakes which had caused the bike to rotate resulting in him being thrown off the bike.
Although Owen did have cannabis in his system, at approximately twice the legal driving limit, the coroner, who had viewed CCTV footage recorded shortly before the crash, found that it had not impaired his ability to ride the bike. Police estimated Owen had been travelling at between 20mph and 30mph when he was thrown from the bike.
“When the bike could no longer maintain forward motion, as it was rotating, Owen was ejected from it at the speed, probably about 30mph,” Pc Ward added. “I know it doesn’t sound a lot but it’s fast enough.”
A family statement described Owen, an apprentice joiner and carpenter who lived with his family, as a ‘caring, playful, kind and ambitious young man’. “He became successful in everything that he did,” his family said.
Lisa and Richard, the parents of Owen, asked for more regulations on electric bikes and scooters after the autopsy.