A teenage cyclist was killed after the brakes on the kit bike he had built from scratch apparently failed as he rode down a hillside with his father and sister, sending him speeding towards a busy A-road where he collided with a van.
The father of 14-year-old Kadian Harding told how the pair had been laughing and swapping jokes moments before he then watched the schoolboy move ahead of him at uncontrollable speed as the track they were riding along in Wiltshire descended towards the A4.
Thomas Harding, a writer from Steep in Hampshire, said it was “100 per cent clear” in the moments after the collision that Kadian had died instantly when he crashed into a Mercedes van at an estimated 25-30mph.
An inquest heard that the teenager had taken his £1,200 Long Haul Trucker bicycle to a repair shop hours before the accident near Marlborough last July after his father raised concerns about the brakes.
Mr Harding, who is the cousin of former Times editor and new BBC head of news James Harding, said the brakes had seemed “much firmer” after the visit to the shop, adding: “From my narrative, [Kadian] would not have had the problems he had on the Wednesday [the day of his death] if he had not gone to the bike shop.”
Philip Birkett, who owns the Acceler8 cycle shop in Marlborough, told the hearing that Kadian had come into his store and asked him to look at the gears and the rear brakes, resulting in the decision to replace the rear brake cable. Mr Birkett added: “I stand by my work and everything I did was correct. When that bike left the shop it was in a perfectly safe condition.”
Mr Harding said his son had been excited about having the bike, which he had assembled himself. But he added he had been clear with the teenager that the cycle would have to be checked by a professional before it was cleared for use on the roads.
The family, who had recently returned to Britain from the United States where Kadian’s mother runs a chain of bicycle shops, had been part of a group of six people cycling to visit a relative near Marlborough when the accident happened.
Kadian was attending a day-time summer school at Marlborough College and had finished for the day.
Describing the moments before the crash, Mr Harding said: “I was right behind Kadian. We were talking and he was laughing and making jokes. We weren’t going that fast. We were cycling in tandem and then he was suddenly ahead of me.”
Paying tribute to his son Mr Harding said: “He was the kind of person that was extremely careful, cautious and methodical.”
A witness who saw Kadian’s final moments said he had heard screaming and looked around to see the teenager, who suffered fatal head injuries, standing on the pedals of his bike and pumping the brakes but had made no attempt to jump off or slow the bicycle with his feet.
The hearing continues.