Tragic speedway star 'knew risks'

Lee Richardson Photo: PA

An international speedway rider would have known "perfectly well" the risks he faced competing in the sport before he was killed in a horrific crash following a race in Poland, a coroner said.

Lee Richardson, 33, suffered multiple injuries after careering into a wooden safety fence while competing for PGE Marma Rzeszow against Betard Sparta Wroclaw on May 13 last year.

An inquest in Hastings, East Sussex, heard that the Great Britain star's front wheel touched the rear wheel of another rider as he prepared to overtake him on the inside.

The impact, on the first bend of the third heat at the Olympic Stadium in Wroclaw, sent Richardson at "full force" into the 4ft (1.25-metre) barrier, mechanic Dariusz Lapa said in a statement.

Lakeside Hammers captain Richardson, known to fans as Rico, was stretched off the track while still conscious and driven by ambulance to the local accident and emergency department.

But, the inquest heard, after being transferred to general surgery he suffered a cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at just after 8.30pm, prompting tributes to the 1999 world under-21 champion from across the speedway community.

Recording a verdict that he died following a motorcycle accident, East Sussex coroner Alan Craze said father-of-three Richardson, who lived in St Leonards-on-Sea, would have been well aware of the dangers involved in his sport.

Mr Craze said: "At the end of the day, you have got to recognise that brave and courageous people like him who want to take part in sport which carries with them a considerable degree of danger know perfectly well that there is a chance that something like this can happen.

"It's a chance that they accept in most cases.

"This is the first speedway death I have encountered in 15 years but I have dealt with maritime deaths and in aviation, and the people who do it are ultra careful.

"They practice like anything and Lee Richardson was an extremely experienced rider, an international speedway rider. I haven't got any evidence that equipment played a part at all in causing this accident.

"I can't look at it and say rider error ... and I wouldn't want to."

He added: "What has happened is someone has participated in a dangerous sport voluntarily knowing the dangers of it and has become one of the very very very few who has become injured and, in this case, fatally injured."