Athy fatality inquest - examine speed limit

Scene of accident on the Athy to BalitorerRoad. Photo:Michael Donnelly.
A jury at an inquest into a horrific vehicle crash last May has recommended Kildare County Council examine the speed limits in the area.

A jury at an inquest into a horrific vehicle crash last May has recommended Kildare County Council examine the speed limits in the area.

At the inquest last Monday, February 3, in Naas into the deaths of John Paul Doyle (29) and husband and wife, Elizabeth (81) and James O’Brien (84), of Kilkea, the jury concluded the deaths were the result of an accident.

The jury chairperson, Paddy Behan, after hearing evidence into the crash on the N78/ L8072 road junction, at Ballycullane, four kilometres east of Athy on 31 May, asked that the Council review the road’s current 100kph speed limit.

Mr. Doyle, of 67 Ardrew Meadows, Athy, and Mrs. O’Brien died at the scene and Mr. O’Brien passed away on 3 June.

The inquest heard from a Glanbia employee and friend of John Doyle’s, Brendan Maher, how he and John Doyle left their workplace at around 2pm on the day. Mr. Doyle was driving a Honda CBR 600 motorcycle.

Mr. Maher described how the two had been in touch with each other at various junctions for a portion of the journey from Glanbia but the witness lost sight of Mr. Doyle, who, at one point, passed him travelling at an estimated 110 to 120kph.

Mr. Maher was asked by Mr. Doyle’s father if they were “racing,” and said “no, they weren’t”.

Another witness, Gabriel McConville, whose statement was read but who was not present at the inquest, said John Paul was “driving fast” but did not know what speed he was doing.

A statement on the vehicles from Garda Bernard O’Halloran found there was nothing wrong, mechanically, with either vehicle before the accident. There was severe damage to both the bike, which can reach a maximum speed of 154kph, and the car, a blue Ford Fiesta, in which the O’Brien’s were travelling.

Another witness, John O’Brien, said he had gone to Crookstown National School to pick up his granddaughter. He said he was travelling at around 100kph and Mr. Doyle’s bike passed him at “a ferocious speed”.

He estimated, but could not be sure, it would have been 120kph or more, and said the driver’s head was down near the handlebars.

Mr. O’Brien said the car lifted off the ground and spun around on the impact.

Asked by Mr. Doyle’s father, how he could be so sure of the speed, Mr. O’Brien said: “I got a fright at the speed. It left me standing. I’ve been driving 35 years and could not recall any bike going so fast.”

Garda Michael Nolan, a forensic collision investigator, said the long straight stretch of road had been clear and dry and it was bright that day. He concluded the accident was the result of “inappropriate speed” and “driver inattention.”

Garda Nolan said “no reliable indication of the Honda’s speed can be determined” and the road had a 100kph limit.

Garda Nolan said the point of impact on the road was in the centre of Mr. Doyle’s lane and the Ford Fiesta was turning.

Asked by Mr. Doyle’s sister, Denise Doyle, if her brother had time to brake, Garda Nolan said “no.”

Evidence was also given by Garda David McGrath, who also attended the scene of the accident.

The Coroner, Dr. Denis Cusack, said both Mr. Doyle and Ms. O’Brien had died from multiple injuries consistent with a traffic accident.

Mr. O’Brien died some days later from injuries as a result of the accident.

He told the jury the only verdict was “accidental” death but that it was open to it to make recommendations.

Following a seven minute break to consider the evidence, the jury returned. Mr. Behan said one of them them had suggested that the local authority look at the speed limit and the other members agreed to recommend this.

Mr. Behan, as well as the Dr. Cusack and Garda Inspector Martin Foley, on behalf of the Gardai, all extended sympathy to the families.

Dr. Cusack said the “absolute devastation” of the tragedy was a reminder to road users to look after our own road behaviour.