An incident which led to the death of a Dublin man when he was run over by a limousine after jumping on the bonnet was a tragic misunderstanding, Dublin Coroner’s Court has heard.
Father of two Liam “Bill” Stafford, aged 28, from Drinagh Park in Ballyogan, Dublin 18, was not aware that there was anyone in the car when he jumped on the bonnet. The driver panicked and drove off.
Mr Stafford had been on his way to his mother’s house after a night out with friends when the incident happened at Clonard Lawns in Sandyford in the early hours of Nov 8, 2009.
The taxi driver who drove Mr Stafford and his friends, James Clarke and Andrew Nolan, said one could tell they had been drinking. They were lively but not “out of it”.
Mr Nolan said that after they arrived Mr Stafford and Mr Clarke walked on ahead, linking arms and skipping. He then saw the two men run down the hill and jump on a black and white limo parked on the side of the road. Mr Clarke was on the roof and Mr Stafford was on the bonnet.
Mr Clarke said they were not aware that anyone was in the car at the time.
The car drove off and travelled more than 30m. Mr Stafford clung to the bonnet before falling under and being dragged along the road. He suffered a cardiac arrest on his way to St Vincent’s Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. An autopsy found he died as a result of multiple injuries but particularly severe chest injuries.
The driver and co-owner of the limo, Dara O’Sullivan, aged 22, told the court that he was inside with three friends when they saw the two men approaching.
“They were obviously very drunk and I was very scared and intimidated. They were bigger and older than us. We were all scared in the car. We all just panicked,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan was charged with dangerous driving causing death but was acquitted at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Sgt Robert Lackey told coroner Dr Brian Farrell that it appeared to be a case of a prank that had been misunderstood.
The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure.
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