An international speedway rider would have known “perfectly well” the risks he faced competing in the sport before he was killed in a horrific crash following a race in Poland, a coroner said.
Lee Richardson, 33, a former star of Poole Pirates and Swindon Robins, suffered multiple injuries after careering into a wooden safety fence while competing for PGE Marma Rzeszow against Betard Sparta Wroclaw on May 13 last year.
An inquest in Hastings, East Sussex, heard that the Great Britain star’s front wheel touched the rear wheel of another rider as he prepared to overtake him on the inside.
The impact, on the first bend of the third heat at the Olympic Stadium in Wroclaw, sent Richardson at “full force” into the 4ft (1.25-metre) barrier, mechanic Dariusz Lapa said in a statement.
Lakeside Hammers captain Richardson, known to fans as Rico, was stretchered off the track while still conscious and driven by ambulance to the local accident and emergency department.
But, the inquest heard, after being transferred to general surgery he suffered a cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at just after 8.30pm, prompting tributes to the 1999 world under-21 champion from across the speedway community.
Recording a verdict that he died following a motorcycle accident, East Sussex coroner Alan Craze said father-of-three Richardson, who lived in St Leonards-on-Sea, would have been well aware of the dangers involved in his sport.
Mr Craze said: “At the end of the day, you have got to recognise that brave and courageous people like him who want to take part in sport which carries with them a considerable degree of danger know perfectly well that there is a chance that something like this can happen.
“I haven’t got any evidence that equipment played a part at all in causing this accident. I can’t look at it and say rider error ... and I wouldn’t want to.”
He added: “What has happened is someone has participated in a dangerous sport voluntarily knowing the dangers of it and has become one of the very few who has become injured and, in this case, fatally injured.”
Medics battled for 60 minutes to revive Richardson after he suffered a cardiac arrest but their efforts were to prove in vain.
His cause of death was recorded as acute cardio-respiratory failure due to multiple organ injury due to a motorcycle accident.
In his statement, Mr Lapa, Richardson’s mechanic since 2006, said his bike was “100 per cent functional” and that the engine was warmed up as usual before the race to stop it seizing.
Outside Hastings Magistrates' Court, Richardson's mother Julie, who attended the inquest with the rider's wife, Emma, said she could never bear to watch him compete.
She added: “He fulfilled his dream. He lived the dream.
“It’s so sad that his career ended the way it did.”