Driver "could not prevent" fatal crash

Inquest jury returns a finding of accidental death

Driver "could not prevent" fatal crash

Coroner, Dr Denis McCauley.

By Sue Doherty sue.doherty@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

A young driver could do nothing to prevent the death of a pensioner in a crash, an inquest has heard.

John McGarrigle, a 70-year-old father of five from St Benildus Avenue, Ballyshannon died in the two vehicle collision at Drumcoil, Ballintra on Sunday, August 23, 2015.

At the inquest in Donegal town courthouse, his friend Packie Boyle described how much Mr McGarrigle loved Bingo and played several nights a week with him and another friend, the trio being dubbed, “The Three Amigos”.

The crash occurred as Mr McGarrigle was bringing his wife and friends home after they had all attended Bingo in Ballintra.

Mr McGarrigle pulled out onto the N15, the inquest heard, into the path of a Silver Landcruiser driven by Sean McGarrigle (no relation) of Ballymagroarty, Ballintra.

Mr Boyle had no memory of the crash, only of waking up with his friend John McGarrigle’s head resting on his chest.

“John wasn't a hard driver”, he told the inquest. “He was very careful, especially as it was a new car.”

The other driver, Sean McGarrigle, who is in his 20s, told gardaí he wasn't drinking that night as he hadn't taken a drink in two years. He and his friend Lee Herron were heading from Donegal Town to Bundoran to see a late film.

As he came round a bend in Ballintra, he recalled, “In a split second a car came out from my left side and crashed straight into me. I couldn't do anything. There was no time to brake even.”

Witness Sean Maguire, a wind farm engineer from Tipperary who was on his way to rented accommodation in Mullinasole, described how it had been raining all night but had stopped shortly before he reached Ballintra. “

“The traffic was slow that night due to the weather. At 10.40pm, all of a sudden, out of the blue, I saw a car being hit, fully side on, by a Land Cruiser. I could see him trying to pull back.

“The Land Cruiser couldn't have swerved, it happened in a split second.”

A number of other witnesses, who had been at the Bingo and were in the queue of traffic waiting to get onto the N15, also told gardaí that they had seen John McGarrigle’s Kia Sportage go up on the inside lane beside the Mazda in front of him and pull out in the direction of Ballyshannon.

The driver of the Maza told gardaí that he had not pulled out because he saw the Land Cruiser coming around the bend to his right.

Gda Damien Mulkerrins, who examined the scene, told the inquest it was most likely that John McGarrigle could not have seen the Land Cruiser and pulled out thinking it was safe to do so.

Dr Denis McCauley, coroner, told the jury, “Mr McGarrigle’s injuries were so severe, he could not have survived and he passed away instantly.

“The pathologist’s finding was that death was caused by multiple injuries consistent with involvement with a road traffic accident.

“In this case, I think we can say that Mr McGarrigle had a miscalculation. He turned left genuinely thinking that the road was clear. It was an accident.” The jury returned a finding of accidental death, in accordance with the medical evidence.

The coroner, jury foreman and Sgt Tom MItchell conveyed their sympathies to the bereaved family.