A SCHOOLBOY was knocked down and killed as he ran between rush hour traffic on a motorway during a meet-up with friends after school.
Talented 14-year-old footballer Sam Berkley darted across three lanes of the M67 to the central reservation before rushing back again towards the hard shoulder, a coroner’s court heard.
But as friends looked on in horror, the youngster accidentally stepped into the path of a BMW 420 sports car travelling in lane one of the Eastbound carriageway.
Sam suffered multiple injuries in the ensuing impact and died seven hours later in hospital surrounded by his family.
It emerged in the run up to the 5pm tragedy on Friday December 1 last year, Sam had clambered onto a fence bordering Junction 3 of the motorway near Hyde, Greater Manchester.
One friend told him to come back but he replied: ‘What would you do if I go down there?.’’ An inquest heard it was not clear why the teenager was running between traffic or whether it could have been ”a dare or part of a game.”
Described as ”a nicer lad you could never meet”, a minute’s applause took place at the Manchester derby in December in memory of the United fan.
Sam’s mother Sarah Harrison, from Denton wept as she told the Stockport hearing: ”He was happy, amazing and he absolutely loved football. He was very active – he played for Denton Youth team for eight years and then left and played for Hattersley. He wanted to be a PE teacher when he grew up. He was really bright and lively.”
“The last time I saw him was when he came home from school at normal time and had been baking in class so he’d brought the cakes home. I always asked him if he’d had a good day – and he always says ‘yeah’.
She continued: ”I went to the shop then and when I got back he was on the phone to a friend to arrange to meet. I asked him if he wanted his tea and he said he’d have it later on. He’d have me making it at 10 o clock like he usually did.”
His dad Gary Berkley said: “There was nothing unusual, just ‘see you later dad I’m going out with my mates’. He seemed his happy normal self and there was no problems. He usually went out with his mates and would hang around in McDonald’s or Costa.”
Sgt Lee Westhead said officers spoke to various friends of Sam who met him on the evening of the accident.
One boy said he and Sam walked towards a footbridge before Sam climbed onto the wooden fence alongside the motorway. The friend told him to ”get down and come back on the footbridge” and even threatened to tell his mother.
Sam agreed to return to the footbridge but then said: “What would you do if I go down there?”
The boy said he would be angry and then phone another friend to meet him.
Sergeant Westhead said: ”Sam stayed behind and when the boys returned he was on the motorway and he saw the collision with the car and called emergency services.’
“There is no evidence to suggest Sam was being chased and there were no other persons within the vicinity. He travelled to the motorway willingly though unnecessarily.”
The officer said the stretch of carriageway where the accident occurred was unlit due to a number of faults and the BMW driver only saw Sam when he was two metres in front of him. It is not thought he even had time to apply the brakes before the collision occured.
Recording a verdict of accident, coroner Chris Morris said: ”Sam’s death is nothing short of a tragedy.
”On the balance of probabilities, the collision occurred when Sam ran or sprinted from the central reservation of the motorway carriageway to the hard shoulder. The collision occurred on an unlit stretch of motorway at a time of day when it was dark and when Sam was wearing dark clothing.
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He continued: ”It is clear from evidence that Sam must have travelled successfully across the motorway then was tragically struck on his return journey
”Whether this was result of a dare, or as a game with mates, can only ever be a matter of speculation. Neither Sam or his friends had an idea that this would lead to such tragic circumstances.”
He told the family: ”Sam was torn away from you suddenly and brutally and I am sorry you have had to relive these experiences in court today. I hope you can now move forward and treasure the special memories you have with him.”
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