Inquest: Cyclist was speeding

George Leon Powell was fond of high-speed bike racing

Two witnesses reported seeing George Leon Powell riding his motorcycle at a high speed moments before he left the road and hit a tree on 14 June, 2010. 

A third witness was Police Officer Trevor Miller, who was waiting at a stop sign to turn onto the Linford Pierson Highway. Experienced in investigating traffic matters, he estimated the bike’s speed at 120 to 130 mph. 

These statements were among the evidence presented during a recent inquest into the death of Mr. Powell, 26, on the Queen’s Birthday public holiday. 

Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik and the jury heard that Mr. Powell, a machine operator at Public Works, was fond of high-speed bike racing. 

He had attended the Jet Around Cayman event along Seven Mile Beach and was travelling east when the incident occurred around 6.20pm. 

Motorcyclist Cleve Garvin Ebanks said he was at the stop light on Smith Road and Bobby Thompson Way with Mr. Powell and another motorcyclist. When the light changed, Mr. Powell left at a high speed. By the time Mr. Ebanks got halfway up Bobby Thompson Way, Mr. Powell was not in sight. Mr. Ebanks said he travelled up Linford Pierson Highway at about 45 mph and did not see Mr. Powell. 

At the King Sports roundabout, Mr. Ebanks continued, he headed back into George Town via Crewe Road. He met other riders at a restaurant and it was when they all went back up Linford Pierson Highway that they saw the emergency vehicles. 

In his autopsy report, government pathologist Shrvana Jyoti submitted a background summary of information obtained from the police officers investigating the matter and from Mr. Powell’s mother and fiancée. 

He said as Mr. Powell came to a bend in the road, he was unable to complete the curve and continued riding straight. He went through a barbed wire fence and into bush, where he was thrown off the motorcycle. His body then hit a medium-sized tree. Fire Rescue workers and Emergency Medical Technicians had to cut through the bush to reach him, as he was approximately 15 feet from the roadside. 

He was taken to hospital, where his injuries were noted and emergency procedures carried out, including a blood transfusion. A visiting neurosurgeon performed a craniotomy, but Mr. Powell’s vital signs deteriorated and he was pronounced dead at 11.20pm. 

Mr. Jyoti said the physical cause of death was internal bleeding and multiple lacerations and fractures due to severe blunt force trauma injuries to the chest and abdomen. 

Sgt. Lenford Butler, accident reconstructionist, said the speed limit in the area was 40 mph. The road was flat and dry and there was good visibility. 

The critical curve speed where Mr. Powell left the road was 85 mph. That is the fastest speed at which a vehicle could negotiate the curve. 

The officer pointed out that Mr. Powell was riding a Suzuki GSXR on which the rear wheel fork had been extended from the manufacturer’s original specification. That extension changed the rate of speed at which the bike would negotiate a corner. 

Mr. Butler also noted that the motorcycle tyres could not generate adequate friction with the road surface at that speed. 

He suggested that, although Mr. Powell’s blood/alcohol reading was below the legal limit, the consumption of alcohol would still have affected his judgment and slowed his reflexes. 

A laboratory analysis reported Mr. Powell’s blood/alcohol level to be 78 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit in Cayman is 100 milligrams. 

The jury adopted Mr. Jyoti’s report as to physical cause of death and returned a verdict of death by misadventure.