An inquest jury has been told to disregard a high alcohol level detected in a blood sample from a 17-year-old killed in a crash, which also killed a woman and her unborn daughter, as it was an “impossible” level.
Robert Stoker from Monkstown, Co Cork, was driving his mother’s car when he “veered sharply” into his incorrect lane, crashing into a car coming the other way being driven by Mary Enright, 28, from Abbeyside, Dungarvan, Co Waterford.
Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene, about 1km from Bansha in Co Tipperary, and Mrs Enright’s unborn daughter Mollie also died. Mrs Enright was 34 weeks’ pregnant at the time of the crash, which happened at 10.35pm on the night of March 26, 2012.
Pathologist Dr Rob Landers, who performed autop-sies on all the victims, said a blood sample taken from Robert came back from the state laboratory with a reading of 913mg/100ml.
“It would be impossible,” he told the coroner’s court in Clonmel. “A person should be dead in or around 400mg.” He described the reading as “spurious” and said it was the state lab’s opinion that there was “something in the sample”.
Coroner Paul Morris told the jury to disregard the alcohol reading and said he didn’t want the public to get any impression that drink was a factor in the crash.
Mrs Enright’s husband, Pat Enright, was a frontseat passenger in the car. They were driving Jack Leacy back to his university accommodation in Limerick after he had played a match for the Abbeyside minor team, of which Pat was a coach.
The widower’s statement was read out for him while he sat in the witness box. It detailed how the couple were looking forward to the birth of their baby. “Two days before the crash I bought baby clothes,” he recalled.
“We were so excited, our plans were coming together… We will never know the colour of Mollie’s eyes or what it’s like to hear her cry. Mollie will forever be wrapped in the blanket we bought her that day. No words will ever describe what Mary meant to me. She made everything in my life so great… Mary and Mollie were my future.”
Mr Enright described what happened when they were travelling on the road between Cahir and Bansha. He said he saw a car coming in the opposite direction.
“As the two cars approached each other, suddenly, without warning, the other car veered on to our side of the road. Mary didn’t have a chance to brake or swerve to avoid a crash,” said Mr Enright.
At 3am or 4am the next day, his mother and father and an uncle who is a priest came to him in hospital. “I asked my mother, ‘Is she gone?’ She said yes. I felt my whole life had been taken away from me.”
Robert’s mother, Marie, had reported her son missing at 10.30pm and told gardaí in Douglas, Cork, that he had taken her car sometime between 7pm and 8pm, while she was out walking.
It was completely “out of character”, said Garda Elizabeth Bugler, who had to tell Mrs Stoker at 12.30am that her son had been killed in a collision. He had never before driven unaccompanied.
Sinead Behan, for the Stoker family, said Robert was “a non-drinker” and at no time did he appear to be suicidal.
Superintendent Padraig Dunne, who led the initial investigation, described the incident as “probably one of the worst I’ve seen”.
The jury returned verdicts in accordance with the medical evidence, which was that both Robert Stoker and Mary Enright died at the scene as a result of multiple traumatic injuries, consistent with being involved in a road crash, while baby Mollie died in hospital from intra-uterine hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, following her mother’s death.
The jury recommended that blood samples taken from a body during an autopsy be split into A and B samples, to allow the family access to one sample, if necessary, and placed in tamper-proof sealed vials.
‘Piece of paper shows third fatality’
After the inquest, Mary Enright’s husband Pat thanked everyone who had supported him and his family since the fatal crash almost four years ago. “It’s been a long, long time waiting for today. I just want to thank everyone locally, all our family, friends near and far.
“At the end of the day we’re here for Mary and for Mollie. We didn’t get enough time to meet Mollie properly but I think she’s left her mark here today.
“Mary was a kind, caring, beautiful woman and set very high standards in life. She achieved over 500 points in her Leaving, first-class honours degree from UL, and was running a very successful business and I don’t think that should be forgotten today.
Mary’s father David Walsh said they now had “a very important piece of paper in our hand which recognises there was a third fatality in that road crash”.
“We set out to get that and we now have that and it’s now up to the powers that be to ensure that all these children are recognised”.
Robert Stoker’s father John Stoker said it had been a “very difficult” four years. “The first thing that I would like to say is that I really want to offer my condolences to the Walsh and Enright family. I know the suffering that they’ve gone through, because we’ve gone through it as well.
“Obviously I’m relieved that my son’s good name has not been denigrated in any way and we as a family can get on with our grieving now which has been in suspension for four years.”
He acknowledged the “sensitive way” in which the coroner had handled the inquest. “It’s time for us now to move on with our grieving for our lovely son Robert who was a lovely, lovely, lovely boy. Anyone who knew him knew that he was a gentle, gentle soul and wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’s sorely missed and to some extent we can remember him now in the way we want to remember him.”
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