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Pensioner died after wood cycle collapsed

(First Edition)

A NORFOLK pensioner died after his spruce and ash-framed bicycle collapsed as he was being photographed for a national newspaper, writes Tom Carver.

Albert Lefever, 71, of Bradfield, near North Walsham, had been inspired to build a wooden-framed bicycle by the success of Chris Boardman's Lotus model at the 1992 Olympic Games.

Simon Lunt, a photographer for a press agency, told an inquest in Norwich yesterday that he was taking photographs of Mr Lefever when the cycle appeared to collapse. 'He applied his brakes, there was a loud crack . . .' he said.

Mr Lefever was thrown over the handlebars and pitched forward on to his head. He died three days later in hospital. The cause of death was given as a fracture/dislocation of the cervical spine.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, James Hipwell, the Norwich coroner, said that a police report on the cycle showed that the headset had sheered off at the rear. He added that he had a document belonging to Mr Lefever, which showed that he had had a problem with the cycle's strength-to-weight ratio.

But Mr Lefever's widow, Eva, 71, told the coroner that her husband, a former cabinet-maker and woodwork teacher, who had made wooden aircraft during the war, had subsequently rectified the problem.

Mrs Lefever said that her husband had ridden the cycle many times before the accident and had achieved a good racing time on it in a local time trial. She added that her husband usually wore a cycle helmet but did not put one on that morning as he was in a hurry.

After the inquest she said that she had been upset by reports in some national newspapers suggesting that the bicycle might have had woodworm.