Popular Helston footballer suffered 'multiple injuries' in motorcycle crash

Wayne Pankhurst was described as a handsome man with a cheeky smile and a naught glint in his eye

Wayne Pankhurst was described as a handsome man with a cheeky smile and a naught glint in his eye

First published in Helston

A popular footballer from Helston was almost three times over the drink drive limit when he was killed on his motorbike, shortly after his girlfriend begged him not to ride it.

Wayne Pankhurst, who lived in Sanctuary Lane and was a goalkeeper at Porthleven Rangers Football Club, died when his silver Yamaha motorbike hit a Mitsubishi 4x4 at Menna near Summercourt on October 15 last year.

An inquest in Truro has heard from Jessica Billing, Mr Pankhurst’s girlfriend, that the 34-year-old had drunk around 12 cans of export lager the previous night and one or two more that morning.

Ms Billing told deputy coroner Andrew Cox: “I was pleading with him not to go out. He asked if I was going to go with him and I said ‘no way’. He looked at me and said ‘When your time is up, your time is up’.”

Not long afterwards, at around 11.30am, builder Graeme Phillips was overtaken by Mr Pankhurst as he drove from St Austell to Newquay.

He described the motorbike as “hammering it” and estimated that it must have been travelling at 100mph in a 40mph speed limit. Another witness estimated it as 80mph to 100mph.

Mr Phillips recalled saying to his passenger James Smithson, as they approached a sharp left hand bend, “He’s not going to make that corner.”

Just seconds later he saw “a massive fireball in the sky.”

Mr Pankhurst was on the wrong side of the road when he crashed into a 4x4 being driven by Ian Julian, who remembered getting out the car and falling to his knees after the impact.

He said: “The motorbike came from nowhere and went straight into the front. I didn’t have any time to react from when I saw it.”

However, police collision investigator PC Jonathan Hitchcock said there was evidence of evasive steering and emergency braking by Mr Julian.

He added that parts of the motorbike had been melted to the ground due to the resulting fire.

The inquest heard that less than three weeks before the accident, ground worker Mr Pankhurst, who was employed by Fred Champion, had his hand crushed by a concrete block, injuring three of his fingers.

Mr Thomas Scott, consultant orthopaedic hand surgeon at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, said his patient would still have had “significant stiffness” in his hand at the time of the accident.

However, Mr Cox said he was “not persuaded” that this caused the crash, adding: “I’m quite clear that the cause for Wayne driving as he did was that he was under the influence of alcohol.”

He ruled “multiple injuries” as the cause of death and that recorded a verdict of accidental death.

At the time of his death Mr Pankhurst, a former pupil of Halwin Primary School and Helston School, was described by his family as “a handsome young man with a cheeky smile and a naughty glint in his eye.”

A minute’s silence was held at Porthleven Rangers, Wendron United, Cury and Lizard Argyle matches in the Trelawny League, as Mr Pankhurst had played for all these clubs.

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