BMW “negligent” in failing to recall vehicles before crash that led to a Gurkha’s death

The government regulator has come under heavy fire after a Gurkha and father-of-three was killed in an devastating crash when he swerved to avoid a faulty BMW, an inquest heard.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency was lambasted after predicting the fatality almost a year before the Gurkha’s death.

But it failed to declare a safety defect which would have led to a vehicle recall and closed down investigations into the problem batch of 370,000 BMW vehicles.

But the German giant was warned it “cannot hide behind the shortcomings of the DVSA,” Woking Coroner’s Court heard.

The fatal fault is caused by a dodgy ‘B+’ cable which could cause electrical failure from vehicle vibrations and friction, which cause the cable to heat up to 250 degrees Celsius.

Former British squaddie Narayan Gurung, 66, was killed on Christmas Day 2016 when he had to swerve to avoid a “blacked out” BMW which stopped suddenly in front of him after being hit by the fault, Woking Coroner’s Court heard.

The Gurkha veteran, from Aldershot, Hants, was travelling with his wife on Christmas morning on a dark and quiet A-road at 6.20am.

He died at the scene and his wife was seriously injured when his Ford Fiesta collided with a tree.

Assistant Coroner Anna Loxton will now write to Chris Grayling Secretary of State and Gareth Llewellyn (doub corr), chief executive of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency to express her concerns in the form of a Prevent Future Death Report.

Ms Loxton said: “At the meeting between BMW UK and the DVSA on 26 February 2016 the consequences which could arise if a BMW suffered an electrical failure in darkness were discussed.

“Despite highlighting the exact circumstances which were to lead to Mr Gurung’s death, the DVSA still did not at that stage conclude there to be a safety related defect requiring a recall, and in fact agreed to a suspension of the investigation into the fault pending more reports of incidents being received in the winter months.

“Whilst BMW UK cannot hide behind the shortcomings of the DVSA, prior to Mr Gurung’s death the regulator it never declared there to be a safety defect, accepted BMW UK’s safety case, decided to close down the individual investigations and made no recommendations that a warning be issued.”

In a meeting on 26 February 2016 between BMW UK and the DVSA, DVSA lead engineer Andrew Tudor told supplier quality engineer Mark Hill, responsible for technical support at BMW UK, “we do not want a fatality”.

Mr Tudor told the BMW UK representative his biggest concern were “no lights” as “another road user cannot see a powerless car”, but BMW did not instigate a recall.

Mr Gurung, a former soldier in the Gurkha regiment, was “very hard working and a great advocate for education”, his youngest son Dr Dinesh Gurung said.

Dr Gurung described his father as a man who “strives to broaden his own learning and also sponsored education to family members in Nepal”.

Mr Gurung worked as a housekeeper at Royal Surrey County Hospital where he had worked with his wife Khari (doub corr) and the pair were travelling to work on Christmas Day 2016 when they crashed.

The squaddie had swerved to avoid a work colleague, Resham Gurung who also a housekeeper, whose 2011 BMW 318i saloon suffered a loss of power.

His cause of death was given as multiple traumatic injuries.

Just months earlier Resham’s BMW had two precious incidents when he could not unlock his car with the key fob, but gave evidence that no-one had warned him that because he had a problem unlocking the car it could suffer a full electrical failure.

Referring to her Prevent Future Death Report Ms Loxton said the DVSA had “no set protocol to be implemented for investigating, managing and responding to safety related defects within a reasonable timeframe once potential areas of concern have been identified.

“There is no internal guidance within the DVSA to assist with interpreting codes of practice.

“There is a lack of any written critical analysis undertaken by the DVSA of the reported defect and how this may give rise to safety related incidents.”

She added the DVSA showed “a lack of any written critical analysis and low this may give rise to safety related incidences.”

She said: “Over the last 12 months the DVSA has been looking at the current process of defect reporting, the outcome of this will be a revised

“The BMW he swerved to avoid had suffered complete electrical power failure as a result of a problem with the B+ power cable.

“Both BMW UK and BMW AG were aware of the potential B+ cable fault in categories of vehicles manufactured between March 2007 and September 2011 and the fact that this could lead to a total loss of power at any time and without warning to the driver.

“Despite that knowledge no recall of the vehicles affected was instigated.

“Incidents involving this fault has been reported to the Driving Vehicle Safety Authority from October 2014 and were subject to an ongoing investigation.

“During a meeting between the DVSA and BMW UK on 26 February 2016, some 16 months after initial reports had been received by the DVSA, the DVSA recognised and highlighted the risk this fault posed to other road users.

“However despite recognising this the DVSA failed to call for and BMW AG and BMW UK failed to initiate a recall until after Mr Gurung’s death.”

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