Fatal crash occured after U-turn, inquest hears

What should have been a wonderfully happy weekend for two older couples turned to tragedy last October when a man was killed in a two-car collision.

What should have been a wonderfully happy weekend for two older couples turned to tragedy last October when a man was killed in a two-car collision.

The inquest into the death of Patrick (Paddy) Fitzgerald, from Croagh, Rathkeale, Co. Limerick was heard in Donegal town on Tuesday.

Mr Fitzgerald (66) died at the scene shortly after a two car collision on the N15 approximately a quarter of a mile south of the Drumlonagher roundabout on Friday, October 22 last.

The inquest heard that the deceased and his wife Mary were in Donegal to attend a family wedding the following day. They were travelling in a silver Renault Clio.

A deposition by Mrs. Fitzgerald, who was not present for the inquest, was read out. In the statement, she said that it was raining when she and her husband arrived near Donegal town. They were heading for their B&B and, after taking the third exit off the Drumlonagher roundabout, she felt that they were on the wrong road. Her husband, who was driving, pulled in. She had no memory of the accident itself.

Michael and Margaret McCormick, who are both in their 70s, were travelling from their home in Gulladuff, Moville to visit their daughter and new grandchild in Meath. They were travelling via Sligo in a gold Ford Mondeo.

Mr McCormick told the inquest that the weather was raining and murky at the time of the accident, which occurred just before 4pm. As he exited the Drumlonagher roundabout southbound on the N15, he noticed a silver car parked at an entrance on the left hand side of the road. The car, he recalled “all of a sudden came across the road in front of me, without warning”.

Mrs McCormick said she could not remember anything about the accident itself, only that it had been raining quite heavily and that there had been quite a lot of traffic going through Stranorlar and Ballybofey.

Both Mrs Fitzgerald and the McCormicks suffered injuries in the accident and were taken to hospital by ambulance.

One witness to the accident, who was not in court, said in a statement that was read out: “ I saw a car shoot across the road in front of me. The driver of the other car had no option but to hit it.”

Another witness told the inquest: “I saw a silver Clio parked in the hard shoulder on the left, facing Ballyshannon. I saw the driver do a U-turn, in my rear view mirror, and a split second later I heard a collision.”

Consultant physician Dr Paula Hickey was en route to Sligo General Hospital when she came up to the scene of the accident. The inquest heard that both she and ambulance personnel tried to help Mr Fitzgerald who was having trouble breathing. However, he suffered a cardiac arrest in the ambulance and attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at 4.42pm.

The inquest heard that the injuries sustained by the deceased and the extensive damage done to both vehicles were consistent with the witness accounts that the driver of the Clio had attempted to do a U-turn and “exited suddenly in path of Mondeo coming toward him at a right angle”.

Sgt. John McFadden said it was possible that the heavy rain at the time had obscured Mr Fitzgerald’s view as he pulled out and that he had not been able to see the McCormick’s car. Speed was not thought to have been a factor, the inquest heard.

The coroner, Dr Diarmuid Hegarty, summarised the results of the post mortem, which indicated the Mr Fitzgerald had died from “multiple visceral injuries” including a number of broken ribs and a tear in the right lung.

The jury immediately returned a verdict of death in accordance with the medical evidence, Dr. Hegarty extended his sympathies to Mr Fitzgerald’s family on this “very tragic, very unfortunate event” as did the jury and the gardaí.