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Flat tyre blow-out caused fatal crash

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Popular Hungerford man James Ballantyne may have missed early warning, inquest hears

THE crash which claimed the life of a popular Hungerford Newtown man was caused by a flat tyre blow-out.

But tragically, a vital warning may not have been passed to James Robert Ballantyne in time, an inquest heard.

The 23-year-old of Little Hidden Farm Cottage, who worked in his spare time as a barman at his local, the Tally Ho community pub, died on July 4 at Southampton General Hospital, a day after his red Mazda MX5 swerved into the path of an oncoming Skoda Fabia on the A4 at Halfway.

At the hearing into his death at Reading Town Hall last Thursday, assistant Berkshire coroner Emma Jones heard how, on July 1, the chief operating officer of Kerridge Commericial System Management, Alan Cross, saw the car parked at Mr Ballantyne’s place of work at UPS Systems in Hungerford.

Mr Cross said in a statement: “I noticed the rear, near-side tyre was completely punctured as if flat.

“I was told by the employees that [Mr Ballantyne] wasn’t available but the information would be passed on to him.

“It wasn’t until the following week that I found out that person involved in the collision was the owner of the vehicle.”

The inquest heard a procession of four cars was driving towards Hungerford when, at about 6.15pm, Mr Ballantyne’s red Mazda veered into the path of the Skoda driven by Judith Helen Durber, who also suffered injuries as a result.

She told the inquest: “I was concentrating on the car directly in front of me.

“It was then I saw a red car travelling in the opposite direction at the front of a line of traffic.”

She said it seemed to “wobble” and added: “I knew immediately he had lost it when he started to do a full turn towards me.

“In the split second that you have I was waiting to see if he could correct the wobble. I remember a bang.”

Mr Ballantyne's father, Warren, told Ms Durber: “We are sympathetic to your injuries and we are sorry.”

Forensic tests showed the rear, near-side tyre was under inflated when the crash happened and that the inner side wall had failed, causing Mr Ballantyne to lose control when it blew.

A vehicle accident expert from Hampshire Constabulary, Tony Reading, said the Mazda was fitted with “low profile” tyres and any deflation would have had to be serious to have been noticed.

He added: “It must have been used in a significantly under-inflated condition for quite some time.

“Some skilled drivers will recover – however the vast majority of motorists who have a rear blow-out, there’s very little you can do to correct.

Mr Ballantyne senior told the hearing: “I don’t know if he repaired it or not. I don’t recall ever seeing a flat or partially flat tyre.”

But, he added: “If he hadn’t repaired the puncture I would be very surprised. He was very fond of his car and looked after it well.”

Mr Ballantyne’s family revealed that, before his death he had signed up to be an organ donor, and had thereby given life to others.

After the hearing they thanked all who donated to the James Ballantyne Memorial Fund to support and encourage young engineers, and those who signed up to the organ donor register in his memory.

Mr Ballantyne was also a keen member and treasurer of Newbury Fencing Club

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