Police constable from Haywards Heath died after motorbike crash

Joel Devalda
Joel Devalda

A ‘number of factors’ caused a motorcycle crash that led to the death of a Metropolitan Police constable in Haywards Heath.

Joel Devalda, 33, of Haywards Heath, died at the roadside in College Road on April 4, after his Honda CBR 600 bike clipped a kerb and collided with a wall.

At an inquest into his death, held in Horsham on Thursday September 24, PC Paul Banks, forensic collision investigator for Sussex Police, listed a number of factors possibly linked to the crash.

These included Mr Devalda’s relative inexperience riding a powerful bike, possibly hitting or swerving to avoid a sunken manhole cover, low tyre pressure, and possible speeding.

He said: “I cannot say for definite whether Joel’s bike collided with the manhole cover. He might have swerved to avoid it.

“I don’t know about his experience on motocross bikes but this would have been the most powerful bike he is likely to have ridden since passing his test.”

The manhole cover needed to be repaired, having sunk by 40mm.

The rear tyre of the Honda was deflated as a result of the collision, PC Banks said, while there was low pressure in the front tyre.

PC Banks said: “(Tyre pressure) can have an adverse effect but in this collision I don’t believe the reduction in tyre pressure would have been sufficient on its own to cause the collision.

“If a sudden swerve to avoid the drain was applied, that might mean that was exposed to extreme handling.

“The responsiveness of the steering may have been somewhat delayed.”

Luke Main, a builder who witnessed the incident while driving his van, said a number of people, including a nurse, attempted to help Mr Devalda before the arrival of emergency services.

He said: “As he got to the bend it didn’t look like he turned, he just went straight into the kerb.

“When I went over to him I shouted ‘are you all right?’ and he just grunted two or three times.”

Karen Henderson, assistant coroner for West Sussex, said: “He wanted to have a bike for a long time, despite not unreasonable objections from his partner.

“There are a number of factors in play here. It was a powerful bike, it is someone who was a fair-weather rider and someone who was inexperienced for that bike.

“There is the consideration of the manhole cover - it had sunk to a point that it needed to be repaired.”

She recorded a conclusion of accidental death.

Mr Devalda’s life was celebrated at a charity strongman competition and fun day, held in Bolnore in June.

The winner of the strongman competition was awarded the ‘Joel Devalda Cup’ and entry fees were donated to Kent, Sussex and Surrey Air Ambulance.

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