HILLCLIMB DEATH RULED AS AC­CI­DENT

Com­plete brake fail­ure blamed for fa­tal Mar­lin crash dur­ing Ex­eter Trial

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Nick Irv­ing

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.

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