Chipping Norton father killed in motorbike crash was a 'legend'

The scene in Chipping Norton after the crash
The scene in Chipping Norton after the crash

A Chipping Norton father who died after being thrown off a motorbike during a crash last September was described as a 'legend' by his family.

Stephen Witham, 63, was a passenger on a blue-and-white Suzuki being driven by 32-year-old Cormac Donnelly along the A44 coming into Chipping Norton in the afternoon of Saturday September 2, an inquest at Oxford Coroner's Court heard today (Tuesday February 6).

Mr Donnelly lost control while trying to drive round a right-hand bend at speed, the inquest heard. Both men were declared dead at the scene.

Sarah, Stephen's sister-in-law, paid tribute to him after the inquest. She said: "He was a lovely man, and a Chippy legend. He'll always be loved and missed by everyone who knew him."

And Alan, one of Stephen's older brothers, said the inquest provided much-needed closure.

He added: "I was fairly confident there was nothing that was going to surprise me."

The inquest heard the pair had been drinking at the Mill House Hotel in Kingham earlier in the afternoon.

The men both left on Mr Donnelly's motorbike and eventually headed onto the A44.

While trying to overtake three vehicles at high speed on New Street heading towards Chipping Norton, their bike clipped the wing mirror of a grey VW Golf.

Although Mr Donnelly was able to keep the bike upright, he hit the nearby kerb on a right-hand bend and both men were thrown off the bike into barriers being used for roadworks, suffering multiple injuries. Paramedics attending the scene could do nothing to save them.

A post-mortem toxicology report revealed both men had levels of alcohol above the legal driving limit in their system, while Mr Donnelly also had amounts of cocaine and amphetamines present.

Speaking at the inquest, collision investigator for Thames Valley Police Adrian White said: "The predominant factor (which caused the crash) is the alcohol and intoxication. Speed will have been a factor."

And assistant coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp, who was leading the inquest, concluded both men died in a road traffic collision.

Before her verdict, she said: "It's impossible to look back and think what on earth possessed these men, both of whom have had experience of riding motorbikes, to do what they did.

"Both of them have paid the highest price for a moment of folly.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the level of alcohol in both men contributed to the accident."