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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Thomas George

Boy, 8, killed after drug driving dad aquaplaned on 'flooded' stretch of M60

An eight-year-old boy was killed after his drug-driving dad's BMW 'aquaplaned' on a 'flooded' stretch of the M60, an inquest heard.

Blake Consterdine-Clarke, 8, suffered 'catastrophic injuries' when his father Leon Clarke lost control of his vehicle on the motorway, near Audenshaw, on February 28, 2020.

Clarke was uninsured and 13 times the legal drug-driving limit when his unroadworthy BMW smashed into a lorry. Clarke, 40, was jailed for four years in October after admitting causing his son's death by careless driving whilst over the drug driving limit. He also pleaded guilty to causing death by driving while uninsured.

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An inquest at Manchester South Coroner’s Court today (Wednesday) heard that a blocked drain had resulted in a 'significant amount of water' building up on the motorway on the day of the crash. Another vehicle had also aquaplaned on the same stretch of carriageway earlier that day, the hearing was told.

As Clarke drove along the M60 clockwise, Blake was sitting in the back of the BMW while his younger brother was a front seat passenger.

The BMW was 'poorly maintained' with each of its rear tyres below the legal limit, the inquest heard. PC Martin Davies, a forensic collision investigator for Greater Manchester Police, said it had been raining 'quite considerably' prior to the crash.

As Clarke attempted to switch lanes, the inquest heard that he lost control of his vehicle. As the BMW 'aquaplaned' on standing water, it began to spin.

By this point, PC Davies said it would have 'practically impossible to correct'. He told the hearing that the BMW's tyre pressure, tread depth and the amount of standing water on the road had all contributed to the loss of control.

Blake with his mum Vicky and brother Mason (Greater Manchester Police)

The tread depth on each of the vehicle's rear tyres was below the legal limit, PC Davies said. One was 'effectively bald', which would have reduced the tyre's ability to disperse water, he explained.

PC Davies said the amount of water on the carriageway was 'not typical' for a motorway. Even a car with adequate tread depth and tyre pressure travelling below the speed limit could have aquaplaned, he told the hearing.

"Any tyre correctly inflated could have aquaplaned in those circumstances but the tyre pressure certainly made that happen sooner," said PC Davies.

PC Davies said the fact the BMW was attempting to change lanes had also contributed to its loss of control. "If it had been going straight ahead, there is a possibility it might not have occurred," he added.

Leon Clarke was jailed for four years for causing the death of his eight-year-old son, Blake Consterdine (Greater Manchester Police)

After veering off the motorway, the BMW ploughed into a highways maintenance lorry parked on the hard shoulder. The truck had been called out to assess damage caused during an incident in which another vehicle aquaplaned earlier that day.

Blake, from Milnrow, Rochdale, suffered multiple 'catastrophic injuries' and was taken to Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, where he died that same afternoon.

Clifford Orrell, from National Highways, told the inquest a blocked drain had resulted in a high amount of standing water on the carriageway at the time of the crash.

While the drainage system itself was working properly, he explained that debris had collected and caused a blockage. Mr Orrell said an investigation had been unable to establish when the drains were last cleaned before the incident.

Up until 2019, he explained that it was the requirement for motorways drainage systems to be cleaned every two years. This has since been increased to once a year, he added.

In a statement read out in court, Vicky Consterdine - Blake's mum - described her son as a 'happy, little boy' and said her 'life is over' following his death.

Blake Consterdine-Clarke (MEN Media)

Sergeant Anna Kennedy, of GMP, told the court that tests showed that Clarke was 13 times over the legal limit for benzoylecgonine - a metabolite of cocaine - at the time of the crash.

She said he was estimated to be travelling at about 76mph when he lost control - despite initially telling police he was driving at 55mph.

Concluding that Blake died as a result of a 'road traffic accident', senior coroner Alison Mutch described his death as a 'great tragedy'.

She added: "On the day in question, his mum and the rest of the family could have had no idea of the very tragic way that the day was to end."

Ms Mutch issued a warning to others about the importance of proper tyre maintenance, which she described as 'fundamental' to road safety.

The scene on the M60 near Audenshaw following the incident (ASP)

"What is clear is that all drivers should check their tyre depths carefully to ensure their vehicle can be used, particularly in road conditions such as this," she said.

"In addition to the tyre treads, the vehicle in question had tyre pressures below the recommendations given by the manufacturer.

"What the death of Blake shows is that the tyre pressures recommended by the manufacturer are not their just to create inconvenience to owners of motor vehicles, but are there to keep them and their passengers and other road users safe."

The coroner ruled that the blocked drain had contributed to the crash, and raised concerns about the lack of records documenting when it was last cleaned.

However, she said she was satisfied that National Highways had made 'significant changes' to reduce the risk of flooding on its motorways.

For more of today's top stories click here.


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