Dad cleared of cyclist’s death

PROMISING CYCLIST: Lewis Balyckyi, who was killed in a road crash on January 18 last year.
PROMISING CYCLIST: Lewis Balyckyi, who was killed in a road crash on January 18 last year.

A dad has been found not guilty of causing the death of a young cyclist by careless driving.

Lewis Balyckyi, 18, of Cinnamon Hill Road South, Walton-le-Dale, was found dead in a hedgerow shortly after a collision with a van driven by Leslie Pitblado, 50, on January 18 last year.

The teenager, who had been selected to train with a European race cycling team in France, was riding along North Road in Bretherton, near Chorley, when he was struck by the vehicle at around 5pm.

Other motorists had told a trial into the accident at Preston Crown Court that the teenager did not have any lights on his bike and was wearing dark clothing, despite it being dark at the time.

Mr Pitblado, of St Annes Road, Leyland, wearing a grey suit, shirt and tie in the dock, showed no emotion as a unanimous not guilty verdict was delivered by a jury yesterday.

His family, including his son who had been in the van with him at the time, let out a sigh of relief in the public gallery as he was acquitted.

Judge Michael Byrne said he could not let the case pass without offering “the sympathies and condolences of the court” to Lewis’s family, who cried in court.

He said: “Lewis Balyckyi had every expectation of achieving glittering international prizes in his chosen sport of racing cycling and the memory and example of this happy young man will remain forever with his parents and his sister.

“I would not wish Lewis’ family to leave this court without realising that the memory and example of this man will live on forever.”

The court had previously heard how Lewis had told his mother he needed new lights for his bike when he left his home, shortly after 3.30pm.

In a statement read by Francis McEntee, prosecuting, Lewis’s mother, Jackie Balyckyi, said: “Knowing what time it was I remember telling him ‘watch the light - it’ll catch up with you’.”

Mr Pitblado had been at the wheel of the van with a number of work colleagues travelling with him.

His son, who was sitting beside him in the front of the vehicle, spotted the cyclist seconds before the crash.

Mr Pitblado had pulled out to overtake a car and said he had been unaware of the cyclist until the point of the collision.

Reverend Nicholas Davis, of All Saints Church, Becconsall, told the court how he nearly hit Lewis just minutes earlier.

The priest said he narrowly avoided colliding with the teenager after swerving to avoid him.

He said: “It left me feeling there could have been an accident there’.

“Had I not braked and swerved around the cyclist then I would have hit him.”

Another motorist, Paul Beattie, also told the court that Lewis, who had his head down and was cycling intensely, was “very hard to see”.