AN EXPERIENCED cyclist died after a freak accident when his bike hit a cat, an inquest was told yesterday.
Derek O’Leary, 43, from The Meadows, Duntahane, Fermoy, north Cork, was wearing a helmet while riding his high-performance racing bike in top gear down a hill just outside the town at around 6pm on July 17 when a cat apparently crossed his path.
Cork City Coroner’s Court was told that Mr O’Leary was found collapsed on the road, blood pouring from his mouth, a few moments later. Bits of his helmet cracked off and were found scattered on the road.
Gardaí also found the body of a dead cat over a nearby ditch and became suspicious.
Garda forensic experts matched hair from the cat’s body to 13 samples of animal hair found on the bike. An autopsy also established the cat died as a result of a severe impact.
Crime scene investigator Garda Tom Dunlea said although no-one witnessed the accident, on the balance of probabilities Mr O’Leary had probably been involved in a collision with the cat.
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.
The inquest was told that Mr O’Leary was an experienced cycling enthusiast who had cycled across Wicklow in the weeks before his death in training for a fundraising cycle with his friend Ben Hayes around the Ring of Kerry.
He set off from home on July 17 for an evening cycle around Fermoy and was coming down a hill near the town’s driving range when the cat crossed his path.
Mr O’Leary was flung over the handlebars and suffered extensive head injuries. A passing motorist, Ger Murphy, found him and together with Jonathan McGrath, who lives nearby, they raised the alarm.
An ambulance was called and Mr O’Leary was rushed semi-conscious to Cork University Hospital (CUH).
Despite surgery four days later to relieve pressure in his brain, he died on July 25 from brain injuries.
Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane described it as a terribly tragic accident — “one of those acts of God, over which we have no control”. She also praised Mr O’Leary’s family for, in very trying and difficult circumstances, agreeing to donate his organs to save others.
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