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Sutton Valence pram race back with new rules after fatal crash

By William Janes

A decades old new years day tradition which was struck by tragedy last year is back today but with some new rules.

Crowds looked on in shock at Sutton Valence pram race 2017 as Francis ‘Titch’ O’Sullivan tipped over in his Spitfire style three-wheeler after hitting a curb, throwing him and his team mates to the ground.

The 52-year-old from Langley was airlifted to hospital but died on January 2.

Francis O'Sullivan died after an incident at a New Year's Day pram race. Picture: Andy Jones
Francis O'Sullivan died after an incident at a New Year's Day pram race. Picture: Andy Jones

A coroner’s court heard that the father of three was not wearing a helmet during the race and died of a “catastrophic” head injury.

Chris Morris, assistant coroner for Mid Kent and Medway, ruled Titch’s death was accidental.

Now, 38 years after the race was first held, organisers have introduced a number of new rules to improve safety for teams made up of two pushers and a ‘baby’ who rides the pram.

‘Babies’ are now required to wear helmets during the event and must drive prams with four wheels while pushers must have physical contact with the pram and the ground at all times, not standing on the pram.

Floral tributes left to Francis 'Titch' O'Sullivan
Floral tributes left to Francis 'Titch' O'Sullivan

The event, which consists of a veterans race for ages 40 and over and a main race, will begin at 11:45am at the village green.

Teams compete in a variety of costumes with homemade go-carts in a range of weird and wonderful designs, racing on a circuit around the village and stopping off at three pubs along the way to drink a beaker of beer at each.

The Queens Head Oddfellows Fund, which organises the race, has raised thousands for national and local causes through the annual competition over the years.

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