Luke Burton inquest: Former RNLI crewman, 23, died in motorbike crash in Filey just a day after passing his test

A 'safety-conscious' young offshore worker died when his motorbike collided with a bus just a day after being given his licence, an inquest heard.

By Grace Newton
Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 3:06 pm

Luke Burton's father Brett said that the town of Filey was 'on its knees' at his 23-year-old son's funeral procession following his death in July 2020 on one of his first rides out on his new Suzuki.

The keen sportsman, who played football and cricket for Filey sports clubs, has been awarded his A2 licence the day before the collision on The Marr, outside the Blue Dolphin holiday park, and was on a 'training' ride with his father and family friend Wayne Cobbald, who were both experienced bikers.

Under the conditions of his licence, Luke was limited to riding a less powerful bike until his 24th birthday.

Luke Burton

Mr Cobbald, who witnessed the head-on impact with the double decker Shoreline Suncruisers bus on a bend, said he believed that Luke had braked hard and could have 'panicked' when he saw the large vehicle appear on the other side of the road. The back end of Luke's bike span out of control and he was thrown off, striking the bus's wheels. He died at the scene from catastrophic head injuries.

Giving evidence, Brett Burton, who served with the RNLI's Filey crew alongside his son, described how Luke was 'bright and outgoing'.

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"He loved learning new skills and proving himself. He had pushed himself all of his life and could turn his hand to anything. He was loved and liked by so many people, and was a big family man. He put others first and he just never stopped. He loved to party and had many friends. He had a smile nobody would ever forget.

"His loss has destroyed our family. Filey was on its knees for the funeral - I've never seen anything like it."

Mr Burton added that Luke was 'buzzing' to have passed his motorcycle test on July 15 after beginning lessons in early 2020, and they went out for a short ride the same day to celebrate.

The next day they met up at the Burtons' home with Mr Cobbald at around 5pm, planning to head to Scarborough seafront and then on to Whitby and Pickering at a steady pace so that they could assess Luke's riding. Luke travelled in convoy between the two older men.

Mr Cobbald, who was behind Luke, described how he saw him have a 'wobble' on an earlier bend on the road when he appeared to have braked too hard and lost traction, but he corrected this and continued the journey, seeming 'unfazed'.

He said Luke's position in the road was 'perfect' and that he was close to the centre of his lane when the bus approached, but he suddenly braked heavily again and lost control. Both he and the bike slid towards the vehicle and Luke was dragged under. The bus then caught fire and was completely destroyed.

Mr Cobbald added that Luke was 'confident, capable, sensible and not at all reckless' and had had to undergo rigorous safety training on his oil platform, as he had recently been promoted to floorman.

Giving expert evidence, North Yorkshire Police collision investigator PC Patrick Green established that neither the motorcycle, bus or road surface were in any way defective.

He noticed marks on the Cayton-bound lane Luke had been travelling in which suggested he had not strayed into the bus's lane until he had already lost control and begun to slide, including gouges from the handlebar levers and tyres.

He added that though Luke was wearing the appropriate safety clothing, it was not known for sure whether he had a power restrictor fitted to the bike as per the requirements of his licence class.

He added that the toxicology reports from the postmortem conducted on Luke indicated that he was over the drug drive limit for cocaine.

PC Green added: "He had only ridden the bike for a few hours and this was a familiarisation trip. He never exceeded the speed limit and the bus was also within the limit.

"Luke had had difficulties negotiating a previous bend, and as he entered the sharpest part of the bend the bike wobbled and collapsed. The slide began in Luke's lane and the bike was on its side when he crossed into the bus's lane.

"He was over the limit for cocaine and the effects of the drug could have contributed to his reactions.

"His response (braking) was a wholly understandable one for an inexperienced driver that would have caused a sudden loss of control. He had amassed only a few hours of experience."

A reconstruction also established that the bend could be safely negotiated at 50mph, the speed Luke was travelling at.

However, it could not be concluded definitively whether the bus had at any point crossed over into Luke's lane.

Recording a verdict of death in a road traffic collision, assistant coroner for North Yorkshire John Broadbridge said: "The aim of the ride was to give Luke a bit of experience and to help him if he needed any pointers.

"Luke was within his own lane when the bike dropped onto its side and was already losing control when he straddled the white line. There is no evidence to suggest that he or the other bikers were riding in an untoward manner or speeding.

"What made Luke hit the brakes so hard is a matter for different narratives. His father felt that the bus approached on the wrong side of the road, but he was looking from his rear view mirror. PC Green was unable to determine its exact position.

"The alternative is that the bus was within its lane and Luke over-reacted to its proximity, possibly influenced by the ingestion of cocaine, and misjudged its position.

"The collision occurred when the bus was in its correct lane, but this does not mean that the bus was not in the other lane at some point. It could have recovered by the time of impact. The key point is whether the bus encroached at the moment Luke lost control. Certainly it would have been very close due to its sheer size.

"I place greater reliance on contemporary evidence rather than that given by Brett Burton at a later date.The front of the bus may have appeared to be over the white line even if its wheels were not. It cannot reliably be determined, but its very proximity had undoubtedly led to heavier application of the brakes and a loss of control."