Fresh calls for improved safety on the A21 following death

THERE have been renewed calls for safety improvements along a notorious stretch of the A21 following the inquest into the death of a businessman this week.

Mustafa Cicek, 36, of Battle Road in St Leonards, was two-and-a-half times over the legal drink drive limit when his Ford Fiesta failed to negotiate a sharp bend on the road at Whatlington in the early hours of October 21 last year.

The vehicle collided with a fence and a hedge at around 3.50am.

Mr Cicek, who was not wearing a seatbelt, sustained multiple injuries in the crash and died in the Conquest Hospital.

The inquest on Wednesday heard from Deborah and Aldo Esposito who live on the bend and for more than a decade have called for improved safety measures following a series of serious crashes.

In 1999, an Austin Metro left the road, ploughed through a fence and landed in the couple’s garden - coming to a rest near the nursery which had been decorated in preparation for their unborn child.

Since this incident, the couple have reinforced the fence with concrete and called for improved safety measures, including a crash barrier, to be installed on the road.

But despite a successful campaign by the Espositos to have an interactive electronic warning sign installed in 2004, the Highways Agency stopped short of installing a crash barrier.

The accidents continued, with vehicles leaving the A21 and landing in residents’ gardens and, on more than one occasion, causing extensive damage to cars on the forecourt of the nearby Whatlington Garage.

The inquest heard that speed or alcohol were blamed for several incidents.

At Mr Cicek’s inquest at Hastings on Wednesday, coroner Alan Craze questioned Martin Ostler, from Balfour Beatty Mott MacDonald on behalf of the Highways Agency, why a crash barrier had not been installed.

Mr Ostler said: “I am advised there is not sufficient room to put a crash barrier there.”

Mr Craze asked: “What prevents you from straightening the road out?”

Mr Ostler replied: “The Highways Agency will go to us if they feel the road needs to be redesigned.”

Mr Craze said: “If whatever criteria this road is graded on, if someone takes the view it’s dangerous, one option would be to straighten it out with compulsory acquisition.”

The coroner said he intends to write to the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin to ask him to look into what action can be taken to prevent further fatalities on that stretch of the A21.

The inquest heard that Mr Cicek had been disqualified from driving twice, in 2001 and 2010, for drink-related offences.

Cypriot Mr Cicek was the company director of Venice Pizza and Pasta, based in Battle Road, St Leonards.

His business partner, Alim Erdel, said he frequently had to lock Mr Cicek’s car keys in the shop in a bid to prevent him from drink driving.

Mr Cicek owned a flat in London and regularly used the A21 to travel between the Capital and Hastings.

Mr Cicek used to be a taxi driver and Mr Erdel said: “He was a good driver in my opinion, until he had a drink inside him.”

Mr Cicek would often wake Mr Erdel up in the middle of the night after consuming alcohol and ask him to go out and get him some food.

On the night of the crash, Mr Cicek went out at 3am to a kebab shop and bought some Special Brew.

Mr Erdel received a text from his partner at 3.38am saying he would see him at 5pm.

A few minutes later, Mr Cicek’s car left the road.

Summing up, Mr Craze said: “It does not need me to point out that somebody who gets into a vehicle in the state Mr Cicek was in is at a very high risk of losing his life.”

He recorded a verdict of death by road traffic accident.