Inquest hears Ajita Ward struggled to negotiate a dangerous Old Sodbury bend on her new Harley Davidson

Gazette Series: Ajita Ward, 42, who died when her motorbike was in a head-on collision on the A432 Badminton Road in Old Sodbury Ajita Ward, 42, who died when her motorbike was in a head-on collision on the A432 Badminton Road in Old Sodbury

A HIGH-flying programme director died in an ‘unavoidable’ accident on a notoriously difficult bend in Old Sodbury, a coroner has ruled.

Ajita Ward, who was born in Uganda but lived in Wickwar High Street, collided head on with an oncoming car, spearing the motorbike she was riding into the front of the other vehicle, on the A432 Badminton Road near the Cross Hands junction with the A46.

Avon Coroners’ Court heard that Mrs Ward, 42, had picked a beautiful summer’s day on June 29 this year to try out the new Harley Davidson motorbike she had bought just two weeks before.

Collision investigator PC Andrew Hill described how Mrs Ward, who had held a motorbike licence for eight years but had not had a bike for two years, had drifted into the oncoming carriageway as she tried to negotiate the long bend.

“There is no reason why she was in the opposite carriageway,” he told the court on Wednesday (December 11). “My best guess is that she found herself there because as the bend tightened up she found she was uncomfortable with the position she was leaning in.

“That type of machine is better suited to long, straight cruising roads and the bend more suited to a sports bike. I’m not saying it isn’t possible to negotiate that bend on that machine but the rider needs to be more aware of their capabilities and the capabilities of the machine.”

He said there was no evidence Mrs Ward was going excessively fast as she rounded the corner into the path of Sandra Cussack, who was returning from a day in the Cotswolds with her husband Sean and parents-in-law Jeremiah and Mary.

Mrs Cussack said in a written statement the family had been to a Morris dancing event to celebrate her father-in-law’s 89th birthday.

“I was only travelling at about 30mph due mainly to the fact I had elderly passengers and they do not like travelling at speed,” she said. “I could see ahead of me a motorcyclist heading straight for me on my side of the road.

“I could see a turning to Catchpot Lane and thought for a split second I might be able to avoid the collision but the motorcycle hit me before.”

PC Hill said because of the tightness of the bend, both Mrs Ward and Mrs Cussack only had 60 metres visibility and would have only had seconds to react once they had seen each other.

“Mrs Ward’s only option was to increase her speed, lean in more, close her eyes and hope to get back over into her lane,” he said. “But that is a split second decision and I would expect most riders to brake.

“The only option to Mrs Cussack was to brake and by doing that she reduced the impact speed.”

Mrs Ward suffered multiple injuries and never regained consciousness. She died at Frenchay Hospital on July 25.

Recording a narrative verdict, assistant coroner Dr Peter Harrowing said: “There is no other explanation as to why the collision occurred other than Mrs Ward found herself in difficulties trying to negotiate this bend.

“It was a combination of her limited riding experience as well as limited experience of riding a motorbike of this type.

“One they saw each other the consequences were inevitable.”

Outside court, Mrs Ward’s husband Peter said his wife had loved life.

“It is a tremendous loss,” he said. “She was at the height of her career and was being groomed for the board at her firm, RR Donnelley in Tewkesbury.”

He said she knew the A432 well.

“It is one of the roads in the country that is dangerous but there is not a lot that anybody could do. It was just a very unfortunate set of circumstances.”

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