A motorcyclist and a sportscar were involved in a high-speed race on a busy dual carriageway, with both vehicles weaving between traffic, just seconds before the biker was killed in a crash, witnesses have told an inquest.
The details emerged yesterday as Cork City coroner Philip Comyn opened the inquest before a jury into the death of motorcyclist Joe Holten, 27, from Brooklodge East, Glanmire, Co Cork.
Mr Holten died when his bike struck the back of a Honda Jazz being driven by Catherine Foley on Cork’s N40 South Ring Road, just off the Kinsale Rd flyover, at around 11am on March 11, 2014.
The inquest went ahead despite objections from Mr Holten’s family, who claimed the garda investigation into the crash was “deeply flawed”.
Sergeant Fergus Twomey rejected the claims. He told Mr Comyn the garda file on the case was reviewed twice by the DPP, which directed no prosecution. He said the file was further reviewed by an assistant commissioner, and that gardaí were now ready to proceed to inquest.
Mr Comyn said he has to weigh up the rights of all parties — of the Holten family and of others connected to the incident — and that, given the passage of time, he was satisfied to proceed with the inquest.
Witness Andrew Murphy said he was driving eastbound in the middle lane of the flyover when he was overtaken by a black car — which the inquest established was a Honda S2000 —travelling at around 75mph-80mph, and which pulled in front of him.
“I thought it was ridiculous — there was no need for that,” he said.
He said he was then overtaken by a sports motorbike which was travelling in the fast lane at “huge” speed.
He said that, on the far side of the flyover, he saw another car, the Honda Jazz, indicate right and move into the outer lane, before the motorbike crashed into the back of it.
He said the motorcyclist did not appear to brake before impact.
“It looked to me as if he thought he’d have enough room to go around the car,” said Mr Murphy.
Frank Davis, a car and bike enthusiast, was also driving eastbound when the sportscar and motorbike passed him at speed — the car veering from lane to lane and the bike weaving between traffic. He said both drivers were driving “dangerously and erratically” and that it appeared as if the car was “pushing” the bike. He estimated they were travelling at speeds of up to 130mph.
In relation to the driver of the sportscar, he said: “It was some of the most dangerous driving I’ve seen on the road. He had no regard for anyone on the road. It was obvious to me they were racing.”
Mr Davis said that when he crested the hill of the flyover, it appeared as if the motorcyclist looked to his left, and banked his bike to the right before accelerating into the fast lane.
“The lady [Ms Foley] done nothing wrong,” said Mr Davis. “He was zig-zagging and she or no one would have seen him.”
James Steel, a salesman who drives 364 days a year, was at the crest of the flyover when he said he saw a black convertible approach from behind at high speed and veer between lanes. He estimated it was travelling at 160km/h-180km/h.
He said he then saw a motorbike approach from behind in the middle lane at speed, overtake him on the inside, veer back into his lane, “open the throttle”, and “take off” at higher speed than the sportscar.
“They were both driving erratically,” said Mr Steel. “It looked as if they were racing each other.”
Businessman Eamon Lynch, who said he drives 30,000 miles a year for work, said the sportscar and bike approached him from behind at “ferocious speed” as he drove in the outer lane eastbound up the flyover.
“They were gaining on me as if I was standing still,” said Mr Lynch.
He said they passed him on his left, with the motorbike narrowly missing a car. He said it was “not normal driving” and formed the opinion straight away that they were racing. He moved to the middle lane amid fears there could be an accident on the far side of the flyover.
“This was the worst example of driving I have ever seen,” he said.
Mr Murphy told the inquest the sportscar and motorbike were “lifting it” before the crash.
Another witness, Denis Murphy, said: “That car [Honda Jazz] had no chance with the speed the motorbike was travelling.”
Seconds later, Mr Holten’s bike collided with the rear of Ms Foley’s Honda Jazz.
She had driven along the South Link Road, onto the eastbound merging lane, and said she had checked her rear-view mirrors as she indicated in stages across to the outer lane of the dual carriageway and never saw the motorcyclist.
Mr Holten struck the rear of her car and was flung from his bike over the central barrier and into the westbound lane of the N40.
The inquest continues.
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