Talented Exeter tattooist died in tragic motorbike crash

The 'larger than life' owner of an award-winning tattoo studio in Exeter tragically died after overtaking a car while riding his motorbike on his way back home from a bike and trike show. Dane Forester, who founded Image Tattoo and Piercing in the Guildhall Shopping Centre, had just celebrated moving into a new home in Okehampton and had many plans for the future when he passed away on September 3, 2023.

An inquest into his death heard the 35-year-old devoted dad of two girls was riding at the back of a convoy of three bikes along the B3215 near The Countryman pub towards Okehampton when he overtook a car approaching a slight right-hand bend, unknowingly into the path of an oncoming car.

To avoid the vehicle he was said to have tried to pull back in but lost control of his bike causing him to come off and land in a nearby hedge. Despite the best efforts of those who stopped to help him at the scene, including an off-duty doctor, he passed away a short time later after being airlifted to Derriford Hospital. The cause of his death was unsurvivable head and neck injuries, and no alcohol or drugs were detected.

Read next:

His family is now calling for Devon County Council to put solid white lines at the location of the accident instead of hazard lines, stating that Dane was a careful rider and would not have attempted the maneuverer had the road markings been different.

The inquest held at Exeter Coroner's Court yesterday, April 25, heard how Dane was born and raised in West Sussex and then moved to Devon 10 years ago. In a statement read out during the inquest, his mum Sharon described him as a 'kindhearted, larger than life character' who excelled at many things during his lifetime such as being an award-winning tattoo artist and having done well at everything he took up.

This was said to have included learning to play guitar, playing in poker tournaments, winning a Devon strongman contest, achieving mountain climbing feats and making his own gin and rum after gaining a distiller licence.

He also had a love of motorbikes which he had been riding for around eight years and had taken up signwriting and pinstriping bikes and was developing a good reputation for his work.

She said: "He had laser-sharp focus on things he wanted to accomplish." She added he was also a 'committed father' to his two children and always put their needs first.

Mrs Forester recalled that the day before his death he had held a housewarming party at his new flat in Okehampton following the breakup of his marriage and had been looking forward to entering a 'new phase of his life.

She said: "His sudden and unexpected death has caused significant and lasting trauma for his family. Our family is not the same."

She told how they missed his 'wicked sense of humour' and said: "He was a unique soul who will be dearly missed."

On the day of his death, Dane had met two biker friends who told in statements how they left Dawlish Bike and Trike Show in the mid afternoon. On of his friends described Dane in a statement as having been his 'normal self' and said: "He was such a sensible rider. There's no way he would do something to put himself at risk. He always waited if he wasn't sure and then would go instead of risking it."

He recalled that they had been riding back to Dane's house and were about five minutes away when they became slightly separated causing them both to lose sight of him at the back. When they stopped in a layby for him to catch up and he didn't arrive they said they rode on to his house expecting him to be there having taken a different route.

When he failed to show, his friend said he rode back down the road to where they became separated and saw the road closure and was told about the crash.

Details of Dane's fatal crash were provided by witnesses. However, the driver of the car he overtook did not stop at the scene and was unable to be traced by police, despite a public appeal to locate the vehicle.

The driver of the car which collided with Dane's bike after he had fallen from it, told in a statement how she was driving along the 60mph single carriageway at around 4.30pm when she negotiated a slight left-hand bend and suddenly saw a motorbike coming towards her in the middle of her lane.

She recalled: "It was only two car lengths away from me. I slammed my brakes on."

She added: "The rider pulled left as if trying to get back in between the car but the bike wobbled and lost control and the rider was flung off."

The B3215 near The Countryman pub
The B3215 near The Countryman pub -Credit:Google Maps

A road policing investigation confirmed there were no defects with either vehicles that could have caused or contributed to the crash. Lead investigating officer Sgt Nicholas Bloomfield told the inquest the investigation concluded that glare from the setting sun in Dane's vision was a 'potential' contributory factor and that he may have been overtaking to try and catch up with his friends.

He said: "The rider's decision to overtake with a limited view ahead was also a possible contributory factor." He added: "Had he stayed in his lane as he came to the right-hand bend, his view would have been much greater."

Sgt Bloomfield confirmed the collision was unavoidable for the driver of the car as she had nowhere else to go to avoid it.

Recording a conclusion of road traffic collision, senior coroner Philip Spinney said: "It is possible the amount of glare in his vision may have prevented him from identifying the oncoming vehicle as soon he might have done."

Mr Spinney added that he had noted the concerns raised by his family about the road markings at the scene and said: "I propose to write to the highways authority about it. I can't make a recommendation but I can ask them to give consideration to reviewing the road markings in that particular area and will keep you informed if there is an update."

The news was welcomed by Dane's family. His stepfather Chris said: " I do feel that as Dane was a cautious rider, he would not have overtaken had there been double white lines."

Following Dane's death, tributes were paid by his family. They said: “Dane Forester, who died aged 35, was an award-winning tattoo artist and loving father to two daughters aged 10 and 8. Dane moved to Devon from West Sussex ten years ago, living first in South Zeal and then in Okehampton.

“He established Image Tattoo studio in Exeter which soon became very successful. His work was in high demand and his style was sought after by many clients.

“He was joined by several other artists and loved his business. He won several awards for his artistic talent. Dane was a devoted father to his two daughters, a committed and thoughtful Dad who was always there for them.

“When not tattooing, he could be doing anything from climbing mountains - having recently climbed in Iceland; fishing, and a passion for keeping fit. Not just a tattoo artist, he also did sign writing and had just begun motorbike resprays which were already sought after.

“He enjoyed life to the full, from an evening of poker with friends, to distilling his own rum and gin, to competing in a strong man competition. Dane will be very deeply missed by his family, his work family, and all his friends.”

Image Tattoo studio in Exeter also paid tribute to their "leader". In a post on Facebook, they said: "It is with the heaviest of hearts we regret to inform you, Sadly Dane our friend and leader has passed away.

"With the family's blessing we are keeping Image Tattoo open to continue his legacy. Please bare with us during the trying times, we will be in contact with all of you in due course. Thanks for being patient with us during this difficult time. Love and miss you always Boss-man."

⚠️ Want the latest Devon breaking news and top stories first? Click here to join our WhatsApp group. We also treat our community members to special offers, promotions, and adverts from us and our partners. If you don’t like our community, you can check out any time you like. If you’re curious, you can read our Privacy Notice ⚠️