A witness to the car crash that killed three members of the same Cork family has told how the driver seemed to accelerate in their direction in the moments before the collision.
Motorist John Onions, who had been running an errand at Sainsburys in South Devon, said that he let the Twomey family’s Volkswagen Golf pull out in front of him as they both turned from the Kerswell Gardens roundabout up the hill to Hamelin Way.
He told the inquest: “It dawned on me afterwards that if I hadn’t let them in at the bottom, it would have been me.”
The Twomey family, from Meelin, Co Cork, were on their way to the ferry on the final day of a holiday in South Devon when suicidal Polish taxi driver Marek Wojciechowski deliberately drove head-on into their car.
The crash eventually claimed the lives of four people, including Con Twomey, 39, his son Oisín, 16 months, and unborn baby girl, Elber Marie — Con’s wife Elber, 36, was 24 weeks pregnant at the time of the crash.
The couple were treated for serious brain injuries at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital before being transferred to Cork University Hospital. Mr Twomey, a construction worker and talented hurler, died there in May.
At the inquest, Elber, the only surviving member of the family, asked questions through her barrister about the lack of a police procedure to deal with suicidal drivers.
The jury inquest at the Riviera Centre in Torquay was told that CCTV footage later revealed the taxi driver’s black Vauxhall Vectra had been driving around and around Hamelin Way, up to a dozen times, in a two-mile circuit between Kerswell Gardens and Gallows Gate before being spotted by police response driver PC Ben Bickford.
Police were on the lookout, listing 26-year-old Mr Wojiechowski as a high-risk missing person after his wife, Agnieszka, found a suicide note.
Mr Onions, who said he still suffers flashbacks from the crash, said he noticed the family’s car in a queue of traffic and let it go in front of him.
He described the moment of impact: “It sounds awful now, but the crash looked deliberate. It decided to accelerate and go straight across the road. The image was that the Vectra seemed to shoot straight across.
“It was impossible for them [the Twomey’s] to do anything.”
PC Bickford described how he was driving up Hamelin Way when he spotted a black car driving down in the opposite carriageway.
“On a hunch” he decided to follow and see if it was the missing suicidal man.
He drove at between 70 and 80mph (110 and 130km/h) to catch up with the taxi. At that point he flashed his headlights four times and signalled to the driver to pull over.
“When I saw that he wasn’t going to stop I pulled back,” he said.
“I am not a trained pursuit driver. The driver was aware of my presence.
“As we approached the single carriageway he made a deliberate act of accelerating and driving straight into the other carriageway. I was just in shock.”
PC Bickford was asked by the Twomey’s barrister: “Do you not think that approaching the back of the Vauxhall Vectra at some speed with your blue lights on might have exacerbated the situation?”
The inquest continues.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved