A keen cyclist died after breaking his neck when he came off his bike on a bridle path bend.
John Rumney, from Arthur Street, Ryhope, was found off the path between Stockton Road in Seaham and the town’s Seaham Grange Industrial Estate on Bank Holiday Monday, May 25.
An inquest into the 69-year-old retired HGV driver heard he was a fitness fanatic, who would cycle or walk each day and had gone on a drive to lose weight and improve his health in recent years.
The hearing at Crook Coroner’s Court was told the widower, who had been married to the late Joan, had been heading towards Stockton Road when he came off his “virtually new” bike, which was in good order.
Pc Mick Woodhouse, of Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, was among the officers called to the scene.
He explained how the narrow rough pathway veered off on a bend near to a shallow culvert, with two “noticeable locked tyre wheel scuff marks” found on the surface of the path in the approach to where Mr Rumney was found.
It may or may not have been trying to avoid something or been taken by surprise, we will never know.Assistant coroner Oliver Longstaff
Pc Woodhouse said: “It’s indicative of short sharp braking.
“There would have been a very small time to brake as he continued straight on the bridleway, which he’s failed to negotiate.
“But from examining the scene, there’s no reason or obstruction on the bridleway which would have the reason for the bike leaving in these circumstances.
“There are various bends and from my knowledge he lived relatively locally and would have been familiar with that area.”
Pc Woodhouse said the 21-speed bike was in 19th gear, which indicated Mr Rumney was travelling at speed, and a high gear for the conditions. A statement read out about Mr Rumney from his family set out how he improved his fitness levels and was active, having tackled the C2C route, and had no health concerns.
His daughter Jennifer had spoken to him earlier in the day and he had been “happy and chatty” after dropping relatives off at the airport and planned to go to the club after his bike ride.
A post-mortem examination showed he had suffered a fracture to his neck, which caused his death.
Assistant coroner Oliver Longstaff told Mr Rumney’s family: “Mr Rumney clearly dedicated himself to looking after himself. It’s clear from the tracks, where there were two moments of sharp braking on the track.
“He may or may not have been trying to avoid something or been taken by surprise, we will never know.”
Mr Longstaff gave the conclusion Mr Rumney died of a tragic accident.