Call for signs to warn of danger of crossing deer

The widower of a 47-year-old woman, killed in a traffic accident on a dangerous stretch of road which wild deer are known to cross, has appealed to the authorities for action to tackle the problem.

Though investigations into the death of Susan von der Geest at Ballydowney, Killarney, Co Kerry, turned up no evidence of deer involvement, traces of deer have been found on vehicles involved in three previous fatal accidents in the area, according to coroner Terence Casey.

The mother of four girls aged from eight to 18, from Reen, Killorglin, Co Kerry, died when the Ford Fiesta she was driving went out of control for some unknown reason, mounted an embankment and crashed into a tree shortly after midday on January 6 last.

Her eight-year-old daughter was a passenger and survived the accident.

Her widower, Donal Moroney, attended an inquest yesterday and supported a call by Mr Casey for large signs to warn drivers about deer in the area.

Mr Moroney, a teacher and musician, also called for the erection of fences or high walls to prevent deer from crossing the road between Killarney town and the local golf club and part of the busy Ring of Kerry tourist route.

He urged the local authority, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NRA to work together before another fatality happens.

“Something needs to be done,” said Mr Moroney. “People have been killed there and there’s been no explanation. My wife was a very careful driver and our daughter was in the back seat. It’s just a terrible tragedy.”

Mr Casey said there is just one deer warning sign on the road at present, and it is visible only from the Killorglin side.

“There used to be a wall five or six feet high, but that was removed,” said Mr Casey. “The woodland area is open as a result and deer cross to where there’s rich grazing on the opposite side of the road.”

In a deposition, Sheila Moriarty told of driving along the road on January 6 and of seeing a car that looked out of control coming in the opposite direction.

The car was “see-sawing” and, in her rear view mirror, she saw it veering across the road and hitting a tree.

Garda James O’Brien, a public service vehicle inspector, said that, in his view, Ms von der Geest was driving at the permitted speed in a 50kph zone and the car was in good mechanical order.

There was a heavy impact on the left rear door and roof which indicated a heavy collision with an upright tree, he said.

Garda O’Brien said Ms von der Geest lost control while negotiating a medium right-hand bend. For an unknown reason, she continued steering to the right rather than allowing the wheel to straighten.

He agreed with the coroner that, though there was no direct evidence of deer, other accidents there had involved motorists trying to avoid deer. He reckoned the accident happened in 1.5 seconds.

An autopsy showed Ms von der Geest died of extensive injuries and trauma to the head, brain, lungs, and heart.

A six-man jury returned a verdict of accidental death in accordance with the medical evidence.

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