Open verdict as inquest hears Clare father-of-two's death was not due to 'a simple fall'

Open verdict as inquest hears Clare father-of-two's death was not due to 'a simple fall'
Gerard Tubridy.

A father-of-two who suffered fatal head injuries after getting out of the car that brought him home following a St Patrick's night out didn't die from a "simple fall", the assistant state pathologist said.

Dr Margot Bolster said there had to be some form of acceleration or extra impetus to give rise to Gerard Tubridy's injuries but the post mortem couldn't determine what that was.

"How he sustained the fall is the problem," she said.

She made her comments during an inquest in Cork today where a jury returned an open verdict in relation to the death of Mr Tubridy, 59, from Clohanmore in Cree, Kilrush, Co. Clare, almost two years ago.

Mr Tubridy, who was known to friends as Jack, died at Cork University Hospital on March 20, 2017, two days after he was admitted to hospital in Limerick with serious head injuries.

He had been socialising in Walsh's bar near Cree on St Patrick's night and got a lift home in the early hours of March 18.

Cork City Coroner, Philip Comyn, heard conflicting evidence from the five witnesses who were in the car with him about the moments before they found him lying injured on the road.

Martin Crowley, who raised the alarm, told a 999 operator that Mr Tubridy had been hit by a fist but later retracted that statement.

Mr Crowley's son, Fergal, who was driving, said Mr Tubridy had thrown a punch at Noel Kelly but Mr Kelly made no reference to being punched. There were also differing versions of events in his statements to gardaí.

Det. Sgt Padraig Frawley told the inquest that gardaí were alerted by Limerick hospital staff at around 8am on March 18 that Mr Tubridy had been admitted with a serious head injury, and that his immediate family should be contacted.

The inquest heard that several hours earlier, Fergal Crowley got a text from his father, Martin, who was in the pub with his wife, Angela, asking for a lift home.

He arrived around 2.30am and took his parents, Martin's sister, Teresa Scanlon, and Noel Kelly, a first cousin of Mr Tubridy, in his car.

(From left) Martin Crowley, Angela Crowley, Noel Kelly and Teresa Scanlon leaving the Coroner's Court in Cork today. Pic: Larry Cummins
(From left) Martin Crowley, Angela Crowley, Noel Kelly and Teresa Scanlon leaving the Coroner's Court in Cork today. Pic: Larry Cummins

Martin Crowley said they had just dropped Mr Tubridy off at the entrance to his mother's house near Hawthorn Nurseries when something attracted his attention and he noticed Mr Tubridy lying on his back on the road behind the car and went to check him.

He said blood was coming from his right ear, that he was unresponsive and he contacted the emergency services at 2.56am.

The inquest was told that during his conversation with the operator, Martin Crowley said Mr Tubridy "was hit by a fist". But in a statement to gardaí later, he said he didn't know why he said that.

"I saw no one hit him, I have no reason to say that," he said.

In his deposition, Fergal Crowley said he recalled an interaction in the back seat between Mr Tubridy and Mr Kelly, with the two grabbing each others' clothes as the car door was being opened, and a fist being thrown.

He said the "interaction" was "over as fast as it began" and that once Mr Kelly got back in the car, he said to drive on - that Mr Tubridy would be fine.

He also recalled his father mentioning a fist during that call with the operator.

"I have a clear conscience that I have told the truth," he said.

Mr Kelly said Mr Tubridy was adamant that he wanted to get out at Hawthorn Nurseries, despite the rain, and that words were exchanged.

Gerard Tubridy's brother, Sean, outside the Coroner's court in Cork today. Pic: Larry Cummins
Gerard Tubridy's brother, Sean, outside the Coroner's court in Cork today. Pic: Larry Cummins

But he said whatever contact there was between the two men was harmless, and that "no one touched Jack that night".

In one of her statements to gardaí, Teresa Scanlon made reference to a conversation she had later with Ms Crowley during which reference was made to a possible scuffle and Mr Tubridy being punched.

Paramedics rushed Mr Tubridy to hospital in Limerick. He died in CUH two days later. He was later found to have a blood alcohol level of 211mg/c - the equivalent of six or seven pints.

Det. Sgt Frawley said, following a comprehensive garda investigation under Supt John Galvin, a file was forwarded to the DPP which directed no prosecution in the matter.

Assistant state pathologist, Dr Margot Bolster, said the cause of Mr Tubridy's death was extensive brain injury due to blunt force trauma but the interpretation of the case was difficult.

She said he had an extensive depressed skull fracture on the right side of his head, which extended to the base of his skull, as well as bruises and lacerations around his left eye.

She said the skull fractures were consistent with a fall but not "a simple fall onto the back of his head".

She said, given the combination of head and eye injuries on opposite sides of the head, she considered the mechanism of the fall, including the possibility that he may have had a "somewhat accelerated fall" from a moving car onto a protruding stone, or that he may have been struck by the car door as he was getting out, but she said that was not the history given to gardaí. And she said she couldn't explain how he came to have injuries to his left eye.

In a statement after the inquest, Mr Tubridy's wife, Annette, and brother, Sean, thanked the gardaí and the coroner for their time and effort into trying to determine the facts but they said the inquest didn't provide them with the answers they were hoping for.

"His death has caused endless trauma and suffering to all of us," they said.

"Since that terrible night, we have been seeking clarification as to the circumstances of his death."

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