A TEENAGE cyclist who was killed in a car crash in West Oxfordshire last year may not have been using any bike lights, an inquest has heard.

Thomas Early was struck by a car at about 9.35pm on November 20 while cycling on the B4449 Stanton Harcourt Road towards Eynsham.

The driver stopped at the scene and called 999 but, despite the efforts of the emergency services, Thomas was pronounced dead at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital the next morning.

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Oxford Coroner’s Court heard yesterday how the 16-year-old was dressed in all black as he travelled home to Eynsham after spending the evening with friends in Stanton Harcourt.

He was on the ‘Eynsham mile’ between the two villages when he was hit by a blue Hyundai Kona, driven by Sarah Jane Watts.

James Henderson, a forensic collision investigator at Thames Valley Police, said the absence of rear lights or reflective clothing meant Thomas ‘didn’t do anything to differentiate himself from the night’.

He added: “The driver stood very little chance of seeing him in time.”

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The inquest heard how Thomas had cycled to Stanton Harcourt to meet a friend at about 7pm.

They met another friend and spent time in a nearby park.

In a statement read out in court, the friends said they had been ‘in good spirits and enjoying life’ before the accident, which left them ‘devastated and distraught’.

One friend revealed he had not seen any lights on Thomas’s bike, while the 16-year-old often used his phone as a torch when cycling, the court heard.

The teenager, who studied at The Henry Box School and Abingdon & Witney College, cycled home along the B4449 as Ms Watts drove back from Stanton Harcourt, where she had attended choir practice and visited her mother.

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Ms Watts’ statement was read out in court and revealed she had been driving between 50 and 60mph on the road, but was going ‘more slowly’ because it was raining.

She added: “I’m really careful on that road, particularly because I used to cycle on it myself every day to go to sixth form.”

Moments before the accident, another car had come in the opposite direction and Ms Watts’ headlights were not on full beam, the court was told.

Ms Watts reported seeing a ‘dark figure’ and started to brake ‘as soon as possible’, but did not see him until it was ‘too late’.

The inquest heard how Ms Watts stopped immediately after the crash and phoned 999, while she noticed the boy’s phone was a few metres away with the torch on.

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A driver heading in the opposite direction, Lawrence Keith Hickson, also parked his vehicle and offered to help.

The court was told how at about 6pm Mr Hickson had seen a cyclist dressed in all black with no visible lights heading towards Stanton Harcourt.

An ambulance arrived at 9.48pm, while a statement read to the court from PC Perry Knight explained how he visited Thomas’s family home at 10.30pm and drove the boy’s parents to hospital.

Thomas was pronounced dead at 8.38am on November 21.

David Geoffrey Hoare, a police staff forensic vehicle examiner, said there was ‘no physical evidence’ of rear lights on the bike but ‘some evidence’ of LED front lights.

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In her conclusion, Rosamund Rhodes Kemp, assistant coroner for Oxfordshire, said: “We’re not here to apportion blame and Thomas isn’t alone.

“But it’s an opportunity to reflect on the fact that if cyclists don’t have good lights and reflectors and clothing they’re at risk. This case demonstrates how important it is.

“Thomas wasn’t doing anything different to any other teenager. He was just going to see a friend.

“He probably had no idea how dangerous it was and had done it lots of times before.

“I’m truly sorry to his mum and dad and family. He was far too young to die.”

The cause of death was recorded as ‘traumatic brain injury’.