An inquest into Ireland’s biggest ever road crash has opened amidst claims of a cover-up.
The extraordinary claims were made by solicitor Ciarán MacLochlainn at the inquest into the deaths of eight people which started in Buncrana, Co Donegal yesterday.
It followed evidence given at Inishowen Coroner’s Court that the inquest will hear from just 14 witnesses despite there being 200 witnesses in the case of the crash between Clonmany and Buncrana on the evening of July 10, 2010.
Eight people including seven friends in one car and another man returning from bingo died in the smash which was the single biggest loss of life in a car crash in the history of the State.
The driver of the car, Shaun Kelly, of Hill Road, Ballymagan, Buncrana, now 27, is currently serving a jail sentence after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths of the eight men.
Those killed in the two-car crash were Hugh Friel, 66, Urris, Clonmany; Eamon McDaid, 22, Ballymagan, Buncrana; Mark McLaughlin, 21, Ballinahone, Fahan; Paul Doherty, 19, Ardagh, Ballyliffin; Ciarán Sweeney, 19, Ballyliffin; PJ McLaughlin, 21, Rockstown, Burnfoot; James McEleney, 23, Meenaduff, Clonmany, and Damien McLaughlin, 21, Umricam, Buncrana.
Mr MacLochlainn objected to the inquest going ahead after hearing only the ‘edited’ version of witness statements were being read into the court record.
He said that full depositions must be given to help the families so they can finally have some closure.
A number of family members of those killed on the night also objected to the inquest going ahead without key witnesses being present.
Mr MacLochlainn had earlier tried to stop the inquest from going ahead without the evidence of Shaun Kelly.
However, the coroner Dr John Madden refused the application. He said that Mr Kelly remembered nothing about the accident on July 10, 2010, saying that he could not answer any of the evidence if he had no memory of the events.
The first person to give evidence was Dr Gerry O’Dowd, chief pathologist at Letterkenny General Hospital who, along with colleague Dr Abdullah, carried out the postmortems after the men had died.
All died from multiple injuries consistent with a road traffic accident.
Dr O’Dowd paid tribute to the staff at Letterkenny General Hospital saying: “I’m happy to say that we never had a day like it in Letterkenny and I hope we never have another like it.”
One witness who did turn up to give evidence in person, James Gallagher from Derry, told how he had been returning from a birthday party at Ballyliffin when a car “came up his arse.”
He said the car then proceeded to pull out in a “jerky fashion” and pulled off and he remarked to himself: “If you don’t slow down, you’re going to kill someone.”
Dr Madden directed that gardaí furnish all the families with the full depositions from the 14 witnesses. He then adjourned the case until this morning.
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