Verdict on businessman who died in vintage car rally
18th January 2019
A 65-year-old vintage sports car enthusiast and Gloucestershire company director died when his vintage Bugatti crashed during a car rally in Australia, an inquest heard.
Derek Howard-Orchard, a petroleum engineer from Cheltenham and a director of Winchcombe-based North Sea Hydrocarbons Limited, was attending the rally in Victoria, south of Melbourne, nearly two years ago, the Gloucester inquest was told.
His car crashed on a bend on the Wilsons Promontory Road and overturned.
Mr Howard-Orchard was thrown from the Bugatti in the accident, "dying instantaneously". His wife, Gilly, who was driving the vehicle, was airlifted to hospital and survived.
The tragedy happened on March 11, 2017, but it has taken until now for the Gloucestershire coroner Katy Skerrett to receive full reports from police and other authorities in Australia.
Mr Howard-Orchard and his wife began the Victoria leg of their tour in February 2017, the inquest was told. On March 11 they departed Inverloch to travel to Wilsons National Park, stopping until late morning, before leaving to head for Tidal River.
Mrs Howard-Orchard drove a short distance and turned left onto a straight decline. At the bottom the road curved and she hit an uneven segment of the road known as the 'push out' losing control of the Bugatti.
The car steered right before an aggressive turn to the left at which point Derek was thrown from the car and crushed as the vehicle turned on top of him, the coroner was told.
A post mortem confirmed cause of death as multiple injuries which would have caused instant death.
During investigations into the tragedy the Bugatti was discovered to have suffered a mechanical fault which damaged the braking system on the vehicle causing its loss of control.
VikRoads which manages the arterial road network acknowledged that although the road was uneven it did not meet the criteria as hazardous and no complaints had been made in the twelve months prior to the incident.
The coroner in Australia was satisfied that although there was still an obvious defect it did not present an immediate hazard and therefore did not require immediate treatment.
It was also noted that the age of the Bugatti would make it more likely to suffer the effects of Australian roads.
Concluding, senior Gloucestershire coroner, Katie Skerrett, recorded a conclusion of road traffic collision.
"I am satisfied with the medical cause of death as multiple injuries as a result of a vehicle incident," she said.
"Derek and Gilly were driving their vehicle which hit an uneven surface of road which caused a mechanical defect causing loss of control and he was crushed," Mrs Skerrett said.
The day after his death, The Vintage Sports-Car Club, issued a statement saying: "It is with great sadness that the club announces the passing of club member, Derek Howard-Orchard.
A memorial service for Mr Howard-Orchard took place at St Peter's Church, Winchcombe, on April 12, 2017.
Mr Howard-Orchard had been a member of the Vintage Sports Car Club since 1990 and was club director from 2001 to 2003 when he and Gilly organised the Cotswold Rally, based at Guiting Power, nr Stow on the Wold.
It added: "A vastly experienced director and event organiser and moreover a kind, loyal and passionate member who was always determined to see the club progress and grow, Derek will be sorely missed by all at the Vintage Sports-Car Club."
No members of Mr Howard-Orchard's family attended the inquest hearing.
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