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Tuesday 22 October 2019

'He died doing what he loved' - father of champion road racer who died in crash tells inquest

Jamie Hodson
Jamie Hodson

Mark Bain

The father of a road racer killed in a four-bike crash while competing at the Ulster Grand Prix said his family is holding on to the memory that he died doing what he loved.

Jamie Hodson (35) died in the accident which also involved his younger brother Rob at Dundrod, Co Antrim on August 10, 2017.

At the inquest into his death in Belfast yesterday, the court heard how Mr Hodson, from Wigan, England, had struck a telephone pole after coming off his bike at up to 120mph. It caused a fracture to the base of his skull which resulted in a brain stem bleed, leading to cardiac arrest.

Family members, including Jamie's mother Carole, heard other injuries described including rib fractures, a pelvic fracture, thoracic spinal cord damage, a lacerated liver and damage to his left lung.

Ruling Mr Hodson died as a result of a severe head injury and other injuries, coroner Joe McCrisken said no motorsport can ever be completely safe. He said no one would ask for the sport to be sanitised in any way.

The inquest heard the race was into the third lap when tragedy struck.

Jamie Hodson's father James, who had also been a successful motorbike racer, remembered being in the pit lane when he heard of an accident.

"You hope for the best when you hear there's been an accident," he said. "I didn't see anything from where I was but knew the race had been stopped. It was about 20 minutes later when I was told both Jamie and Rob were involved.

"The next hour was a living nightmare.

"When Rob came back he could hardly walk. He told me Jamie didn't look good."

Jamie was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

"I was met there by police and after Rob arrived for X-rays we knew things weren't good for Jamie," James recalled. "He only had about half an hour left. It was hugely traumatic.

"I've loved motorbikes all my life and sometimes you wish your children hadn't followed in your footsteps, that they'd found their own passions in life, but motorbikes were their passion too.

"The one thing to hold on to is that Jamie died doing what he loved. He wouldn't have wanted to do anything differently."

Rob Hodson (31) said the past 18 months had been difficult.

"It's all still very raw, particularly for my mum," he said.

"We're still trying to get over what happened as a family and it will always be with us.

"Jamie was excited to get racing and had flown back from holiday in Cyprus with his girlfriend straight to Belfast to compete.

"We'd had a really good morning in practice. We were both feeling good. We didn't speak just before the race, we were concentrating on our bikes and making sure everything was ready to go in our own ways."

After lining up alongside his older brother, Rob recalled the moment tragedy struck for the family racing team.

"It happened in five or six seconds. That's all it took from everything being fine to everything going wrong. But that's racing.

"I slid out wide on the corner and I think I hit a lump of soil on the grass verge."

That sent Rob off his bike, his Yamaha 600 Supersport machine sliding across the road into the path of three more racers following closely behind at the tricky Joey's Windmill section.

One of the racers was his brother Jamie.

"The aftermath was terrible. Jamie took the force of the injury. When the medical teams were working with him I wanted to go to him but had to step aside. It was hard to watch. I could see he wasn't moving and they had put up a sheet to cover the scene."

Rob returned to racing in the Isle of Man last summer after recovering from his injuries.

"We can choose to sit and play chess in the house or carry on. We'll carry on," he said.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Chris Johnson determined that the head injury was ultimately what cost Mr Hodson his life, though he said other injuries would also have been life-threatening. He added that Mr Hodson would have been unconscious at point of impact and said no alternative safety measures could have saved Mr Hodson's life.

"Given the speed involved, even a crash helmet is not a great deal of protection," he said.

Mr McCrisken, the coroner, said he was satisfied that all appropriate safety measures had been taken by race organisers.

"He was a young man of 35, an experienced motorcycle rider with no medical history. He took evasive action at a speed of 100-120mph," he said. "I have no doubt he received the best medical care, indeed when CPR was attempted after his cardiac arrest he began taking air.

"He died as a result of a severe head injury, with other injuries, laceration to the liver and a spinal injury, also enough to be a threat to life.

"This is not an inquiry into road racing. Riders know the risks involved and no motorsport can ever be completely safe. No one would ask for the sport to be sanitised in any way. This was a racing incident and no one could have done any more."

Belfast Telegraph

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