A coroner said today he will contact the Government to look at the issue of vehicle tyre age after one two decades old blew out causing a coach crash that killed three people.
Driver Colin Daulby battled to control the 52-seat coach as it headed north on the A3 at Hindhead in Surrey from the Bestival music festival on the Isle of Wight when the blow-out on the front nearside tyre occurred, making the coach veer to the left, mount the embankment, crash through a fence and into the tree.
Mr Daulby, 63, from Warrington, died in the crash along with Kerry Ogden, 23, of Maghull, Liverpool, and another passenger, musician Michael Molloy, 18, from Woolton, Liverpool.
Mr Molloy and Miss Ogden were seated directly behind in two rows Mr Daulby in the window seats and all three died instantly in the crash from multiple injuries, the hearing was told. Mr Daulby had only three seconds to react to the blow out and could have done nothing. He was described as a safe and careful driver who was experienced.
The coach was operated by Merseypride Travel and heading back to Merseyside just before midnight on September 10 last year. The company is due in court at Guildford Magistrates' Court on August 12 to answer a charge of using a defective tyre on the vehicle that did not contribute to the accident, Surrey police said.
Surrey coroner Richard Travers said that the "catastrophic failure" of the 19 and half years old tyre that was two years older than the coach had caused the accident and he recorded a verdict of accidental death.
"The real explanation that this tyre failed so catastrophically is through age," he said.
"I formally announce that I will be writing a rule-43 report to draw attention to the Minister for Transport of the very dangers caused by the fact that vehicles, be they private, commercial or public are legally able to drive on tyres without restriction on age and by reason of age are potentially in a perilous condition which there is no realistic means of detecting."
The two-day hearing heard that the tyre had been bought second hand by the company and had legal tread and had never been regrooved or retreaded and was perfectly legal to use. There were no other defects to the 17-year-old coach that contributed to the crash.
But tyre expert David Price said the tyre was "abnormally old" and that caused the accident as it finally failed.
"It is known that tyres deterioriate significantly with age," he said.
There are presently no laws to stop old tyres being used but some car manufacturers recommend that tyres more than 10 years old are scrapped.
Mr Price explained that the coach tyre had been delaminating, or falling apart internally, for perhaps months but this would not have been noticeable to the eye. He said that it was only half worn so had either been a spare or in storage for many years.
He added that a lack of a legal requirement about the age of tyres was "frustrating".
The vehicle was full of friends who had left Merseyside on September 5 to go south for the festival and each paid £56 to hire the coach but bought their own tickets.
Those inside talked of waking up and seeing the tree looming before them as the coach went up the embankment in the moments before the crash, then scrambling out while smelling fuel. Many suffered serious injuries in addition to the three who died from multiple injuries, the inquest in Woking, Surrey was told.
Janet Fields, who was driving her ex-partner Troy Walter, was behind the coach and said in a statement: "It just left the road. There were no brake lights, no skidding - it just glided off the road and then up the embankment."
Mr Molloy had just turned 18 and was a "talented and gifted musician". The teenager from Woolton, south Liverpool, was once a member of the aspiring Liverpool-based band Hostile Radio but had gone solo.
English graduate Miss Ogden was described as keen on music and she had been to Bestival several times. Her father Robert Ogden said his daughter had the travelling bug and hoped to teach English abroad
Mr Daulby was decribed as a safe and considerate driver who loved his part-time job with the company. Tests showed he had not consumed alcohol or drugs, the hearing was told.