‘We need to step up and get lethal N20 right turn closed’

Diane Baker with Judy Dinehart

No-one else has to die here — that’s the blunt message from two Americans with a tragic connection who have backed calls to close a lethal turn on a stretch of the N20 Cork to Limerick road.

Last September, Diana Baker’s father Jim, 62, was killed alongside Peggy Adams, 59, both from Indiana, in a crash at the Waterloo junction while following satnav directions for Blarney.

Judy Dinehart from Stillwater, Minnesota, escaped with minor injuries following a crash at the same junction just two weeks ago in which her partner, Daniel Pilarski, was seriously injured.

They too were following satnav directions for Blarney when their hire car was struck by a van while making a right turn at the Waterloo junction. The safer left turn to the tourist village is just two miles further south.

The two women, who met in Blarney, have now backed an online petition, organised by Damian Boylan, to close off the right turn for southbound motorists.

“I want to give purpose to my father’s death, for his death not to be in vain,” said Diana.

Jim Baker with his wife Deborah the day before the fatal crash.

Speaking after laying flowers at the spot where he died, she said: “If I don’t do something, every single accident that happens here after this is on me, their blood is on my hands. I have the opportunity to make a change. He died but nobody else has to. We all need to step up and get this right-hand turn closed.”

She told the Irish Examiner that as she visited the crash site, debris from the most recent crash was still visible at the junction.

The scene of the September 2017 accident, near the N20 Waterloo junction, in which Jim Baker was killed.

Judy, who is maintaining a daily vigil at Daniel’s bedside in Cork University Hospital, said she remembers Daniel indicating right, stopping, and waiting for a break in the oncoming traffic.

“It just happened so fast. We both saw the quick approach and screamed, ‘oh no, no’,” she said.

“Danny can’t remember and I can’t forget. I keep seeing it over and over again. I saw the van trying to do something, then — bam.

“The noise and speed was tremendous. It took a few minutes to catch my breath, then I felt the searing hot pain of every inch of the seat belt that saved my life.”

She said they are taking each day as it comes, but she realises that Daniel faces months of therapy and rehabilitation.

“We are counting our blessings to be alive, as we know others were not so lucky,” she said.

“Someone in Ireland’s transportation system or councils needs to be brave enough to step up to the task and make this area safe for everyone involved.”

Both women said that, in the short-term, warning signs should be erected advising against the satnav’s right turn directions to Blarney through Waterloo.

Diana said does not blame the truck driver involved in September’s crash, and that she hopes he is OK.

“My heart goes out to the lorry driver. I wish I could give him a hug, he’s not to blame. He couldn’t have stopped. I hope he can understand that this was not his fault.”

Similarly, Judy said her thoughts are with the van driver involved in their accident too.

“Please send that van driver my hug, I can still see him,” she said.

They also praised Anna Dillon, who works in the clinical decision unit of Cork University Hospital, and her medical colleagues for their help. Judy said she can not thank enough the staff at Bru Columbanus for their help, and Diana praised Dan McCarthy for his support.

- Irish Examiner

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