Inquest hears of triple road death

Three friends died after being thrown from a car that lost control on a bend and collided with a truck parked on the other side of the street, an inquest heard tonight.

Garda John Reynolds said the car was travelling at between 78 kilometres per hour and 89kph in the 50kph residential zone on Dublin’s North Circular Road (NCR) when Christopher McGowan and Helen Power, both 30, and Thomas Shortall, 42, died from multiple injuries around 3am on April 21, 2005.

The Dublin Coroner’s Court heard the injuries of the couple (Mr McGowan and Ms Power) – from Parkgate Place, Parkgate Street, Dublin, but originally from Co Offaly – were so horrific they had to be identified by dental records.

The sole survivor, Kenneth McCaffrey, told the inquest it was chance that had brought the four friends together that night.

Mr McCaffrey said he and Thomas Shortall, from Shurock, Moate, Co Westmeath, had driven to Dublin that night to travel by ferry to Holyhead to deliver a forklift to a customer.

After they had problems with the engine of the truck, they missed the ferry, checked into a B&B and met up with their old friend, Mr McGowan. The crash occurred as Mr McGowan drove them back from his public house in Ballybock at around 3am.

“I recall turning around to Tommy in the back, and the next thing I recall is waking up in hospital,” Mr McCaffrey, who received multiple injuries, said.

“I definitely did not have my (seat) belt on and I don’t think anyone else did either.”

The inquest heard Mr McGowan was over the legal alcohol limit for driving.

Witnesses said the scene of the accident on the NCR in Dublin was one of devastation. The sole survivor, Mr McCaffrey, was hanging half inside the car.

One witness told the inquest the Golf GTI passed him travelling so fast around 3am on the NCR that he thought it was part of a high-speed Garda chase.

Andrew Keogh said: “The car went past so fast I thought it was being pursued.”

After it went out of sight, he said: “I heard a loud bang to my left and saw a big puff of smoke. The roof of the car had been ripped off.”

He said the first people on the scene removed Mr McCaffrey from the car as, due to the flames, they believed it was about to blow up.

Another witness, Bernard Finnegan, said: “I didn’t hear any screeching of brakes. The bang was massive.”

Gda Reynolds of the forensic collision investigation unit said the driver was going at a critical pace in excess of the speed limit as it met the bend on the NCR.

He calculated the car was travelling between 78kph and 89kph at the time it crossed the road on the bend and collided with the truck, parked on the opposite side.

“I wouldn’t regard it as being a severe bend, not for a 50kph area,” he said, adding there were no brake marks at the scene of the accident.

He said the area was lit with street lamps and road conditions were dry at the time of the crash.

The driver of the truck, Daniel Bateman, said that when he came out to go to work the following morning he believed a bomb had gone off as the parked truck had been moved and the pole of a street light was bent.

Sergeant Matthew Geraghty, the investigating garda, said the Director of Public Prosecutions had not directed any criminal proceedings in the deaths.

The garda told the inquest that, although there were no yellow parking lines, the truck was not legally parked under the regulations for heavy goods vehicles.

The jury, who gave verdicts of misadventure for all three deaths, recommended restricted parking areas for heavy goods vehicles should be clearly marked, and when parked at night the vehicles should display lights.

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