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Horror accident on the B1063 near Wickhambrook leads to calls to fix Suffolk's 'death-trap' potholes

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A couple are calling for action after a pothole sent them flying from their road bikes.

Bettina Scarlata, 49, and husband Mark,48, were cycling into Wickhambrook, Suffolk, on July 17, when they both hit the four inch deep, two feet wide, four feet long pothole, on the B1063.

Mark Scarlata, a priest and teacher, was thrown from his brand new Factor road bike and suffered six broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a fractured spine, and a fractured finger.

Bettina and Mark Scarlata after the accident. Picture courtesy of the Scarlata family.
Bettina and Mark Scarlata after the accident. Picture courtesy of the Scarlata family.

Wife Bettina suffered traumatic head injury and shattered elbows, and has no memory of the accident after suffering concussion.

“Mark is now immobile as he recovers and the doctors thought most certainly, I would have been dead, or have lifelong brain damage, if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet,” said Mrs Scarlata, a heritage school worker.

“They still don’t know if I will regain full use of my arm, which now has metal plates, and Mark has a CT scan coming up for another look at his spine.

Locals say the four feet long by two feet wide pothole has been there for "some time" and had been getting bigger.
Locals say the four feet long by two feet wide pothole has been there for "some time" and had been getting bigger.

“Mark hit the pothole first and then I did seconds later and we both went flying off our bikes.

"I have no memory of the accident and just remember waking up in hospital.

"We were both there for four days in total."

Mrs Scarlata, added: "Potholes are just death traps and if the council don’t do something about them, someone will eventually lose their life, as we nearly did - the parents of three children.

The couple, from Cambridge, were taken by ambulance to West Suffolk Hospital.

Keen and experienced cyclists, they were riding an 80km route and were travelling around 25mph when they hit the pothole.

The Scarlata family before on the accident.
The Scarlata family before on the accident.

A recent Suffolk News investigation found that Suffolk County Council paid out £383,041 between 2015 and 2020 after 712 claims were made for damages and injuries caused by potholes and damaged roads.

In response to the investigation, a spokesman for the county council said it couldn't comment on the figures, but added: "At Suffolk Highways we continue to focus our efforts on repairing potholes and despite a challenging year due to the pandemic, we managed to repair even more potholes over the past 12 months compared to previous years.

"We have invested in extra resource and work to repair potholes as soon as we can."

Gemma Jones, who lives in Boyden End, near the B1063, and who was first on the scene, said the pothole had been there for “some time” and had been getting bigger.

“That stretch of road has always been pretty bad," she said.

"I thought the couple had been hit by a car and could see it was pretty serious, and called an ambulance straight away."

A spokesman for Suffolk Highways said in relation to the Scarlata's accident: “We are very sorry to hear of the accident in Wickhambrook and wish the couple involved a quick recovery.

“The pothole had been inspected, marked up and was awaiting repair in line with our maintenance policy.

"However, in light of the incident our teams have carried out a temporary fix prior to a more permanent repair in the coming weeks.

"Although we repair many thousands of potholes every year, unfortunately not all potholes can be eradicated at once which is why we encourage all road users to take extra care and drive to the conditions of the road.

“Our teams regularly inspect all roads across the county, however we cannot be everywhere at once - so if anyone sees a pothole that needs repairing, report it at www.highwaysreporting.suffolk.gov.uk.”

A spokesperson for Wickhambrook Parish Council, said: "We are working hard to address any road safety issues reported to us, and engage proactively with Suffolk Highways, the agency responsible for maintaining our roads.

"We hope that the cyclists injured on this occasion make a speedy and complete recovery."

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