Priest nearly hit cyclist before teen was killed

CYCLIST: Lewis Balyckyi, who died in a collision with a van
CYCLIST: Lewis Balyckyi, who died in a collision with a van
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A priest has told a court how he nearly hit a young cyclist before he was killed in a separate incident just minutes later.

Reverend Nicholas Davis, of All Saints Church, Becconsall, said he narrowly avoided colliding with Lewis Balyckyi on the same road where the 18-year-old died last year.

The promising cyclist, who had been selected to train with a European race team in France, was riding along North Road in Bretherton, near Chorley, on January 18, when his bike collided with a transit van driven by Leslie Pitblado.

He was found dead in a hedgerow after the collision with the van at around 5pm.

Leslie Pitblado, 50, of St Annes Road, Leyland, has pleaded not guilty to causing death by careless driving.

Preston Crown Court heard yesterday how Rev Davis was driving in the same area that night and had to swerve to avoid the teenager, who had no lights on his bike.

Revd Davis said: “It wasn’t the sort of manoeuvre that I would want to carry out regularly.

“It left me feeling ‘there could have been an accident there’. It was a split second decision.

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

Revd Davis said he later heard about Lewis’ death through members of his congregation and realised he had passed the same cyclist earlier that evening.

He said he had turned into North Road from Marl Cop in his Ford Fiesta and was heading towards Southport at around 5.05pm, at a speed of around 30 to 40mph.

He told the court: “I had not been on North Road for very long. Very suddenly, just looming out of the dark, there was a cyclist travelling in the same direction as I was.

“I was close enough to have to swerve into the other side of the road and apply my brakes in order to get round the cyclist and not to hit him.

“I’m used to encountering cyclists on those roads. I’m used to driving in that area because it’s very close to my parish.

“There were no visible lights on the bike so it was only the lights on my headlights that illuminated him at the last minute.”

He said his evasive action had put himself in danger.

He said: “The difficulty on that stretch of road is to the left there is a significant ditch and the road isn’t particularly wide.

“Had there been something in the other side of the road such as another car I would have been in a very difficult position at that point.”

He added the cyclist “had his head down”, was cycling quickly, and didn’t seem to notice him when he swerved past.