Mason crash death driver to be sued

Your Local Guardian: Gary Mason's family is to take legal action against driver Piero Zanelli Gary Mason's family is to take legal action against driver Piero Zanelli

The family of British boxing champion Gary Mason who died when he was hit by a van have said they will take legal action against the driver.

The former heavyweight fighter, 48, had been cycling close to his home before he was hit by Piero Zanelli and propelled onto the bonnet of his Vauxhall. Mason's relatives are preparing a civil action against Mr Zanelli, 44, after a coroner ruled the Jamaican-born boxer's death was an accident.

Speaking after the inquest at Croydon Coroner's Court, his sister Paulette Stewart said: "Gary was a wonderful man and father, well loved by all and was taken from us through the reckless driving of Mr Zanelli. We, as a family, will never get over Gary's death which in our view was clearly avoidable."

Family members wiped tears from their eyes as Mason's final moments were reconstructed in the packed courtroom. The inquest heard how Mr Zanelli, who failed a police sight test on the day of the crash, had been driving to work when he made a right hand turn at a junction and struck Mason.

The retired boxer, who had either been on his bike or pushing it at the time, was tossed into the air and hit the van's windscreen with a "thump". The inquest heard many motorists drove across hazard lines to make the turn into Sandy Lane South, in Wallington, south London.

Giving evidence, Mr Zanelli, of Purley in Surrey, conceded he would cut across the road markings "eight times out of 10". Asked whether he had done so at around 6am on January 6 last year, he replied: "I can't answer you that."

The inquest was told how Mason's bike was found in a mangled wreck at the side of the road, having been run over by Mr Zanelli's van. Collision investigators estimated he had been driving at between 25mph and 48mph at the time of the crash. CCTV footage showed he had been going at between 36mph and 41mph in the lead-up to the collision.

Mr Zanelli, who took a deep breath as he addressed the court, said the light bulb on his speedometer was not working when he hit Mason. He told how he slowed down and dropped into second gear before making the turn in light drizzle.

He said: "I didn't see anybody. There wasn't anything on my bonnet, there was just a thump and the windscreen shattered and that was it. It all happened in one go." The driver, who has held a licence for 20 years, said he felt "scared" after the collision and made a three-point turn in the road before pulling up.

Addressing the family, he said: "It has been a year and I haven't been able to pass on my condolences and I'm truly sorry for what has happened and if I could have avoided the whole thing I would have. I am truly sorry and once again pass on my condolences to the family and friends."

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