HILLCLIMB DEATH RULED AS ACCIDENT
Complete brake failure blamed for fatal Marlin crash during Exeter Trial
An inquest has ruled, following a prolonged investigation, that the death of a veteran hillclimb driver was accidental.
As reported in our 25 January issue, Colin Butt and his navigator were ejected from a Marlin Roadster after it rolled down a steep hill, crashed into a bank and flipped over. The court heard that Butt was fatally crushed when the car suffered complete brake failure during the 88th Exeter Trial on National Trust land at Fingle Woods, Devon, on 7 January.
The car barrel-rolled and the 66-year-old driver suffered multiple fatal injuries. His passenger was thrown out of the car, but survived. Neither had been wearing seatbelts, which is not a regulation for off-road hill climbing.
Passenger Andrew Bennellick operated the handbrake and Mr Butt, from Uffculme, Devon, used the footbrake as they reversed down the hill – but a loss of brake fluid meant that the foot pedal went straight to the floor.
Bennellick told the court: ‘Suddenly something went “pop” and the car accelerated backwards out of control before flipping in the air and barrel-rolling twice.’
Vehicle examiners concluded that the crash occurred because of brake failure, which in turn was caused by a lack of brake fluid that had leaked from a badly adjusted master cylinder.
The inquest heard that Mr Butt had held a competition licence for 19 years, but Ian Davis from the Motor Sports Association – the UK governing body of fourwheel motorsport – said that the licence would have been declined had organisers known that he was suffering from cancer.
He added that seatbelts were not worn so that competitors could ‘ bounce’ in their cars to get better traction.
The Marlin did not have a roll cage, and the competitors were not wearing helmets. Police investigator, Geoffrey Chapman, said that had seat belts been worn, the ‘fatal outcome may
have been avoided’.
Colin Butt died after his Marlin Roadster – similar to this one – crashed and rolled.