A mother was one of two people killed after a rally car crashed and ploughed into spectators.
Another race fan is in a critical condition and six others including the driver were hospitalised after the Ford Escort smashed through a garden fence at 11.30am yesterday in Bailieborough, Co Cavan.
The two people — named as Joe Lane and Caroline Cleary — died instantly at the scene after being hit head-on by the vehicle.
Mr Lane was a photographer in his 40s from Galway, while Ms Cleary was a co-driver from Wexford who has a young child.
Ms Cleary, who was in her early 30s, recently moved to West Cork to live closer to her boyfriend, and had been working in Bandon. Her boyfriend is understood to be a rally car driver who had been due to take part in yesterday’s race in Cavan before being told his car was not ready.
The crash occurred when the vehicle lost control at two hill crests in close proximity to each other. The driver’s left wheels landed on a grass verge after the second hill.
The car subsequently skidded on its side before smashing through a wooden garden fence where a number of spectators had been watching the race.
The deceased are understood to have been hit head-on by the car, with Ms Cleary caught under the sliding vehicle. Both Ms Cleary and Mr Lane died at the scene.
Eyewitness Matthew McMahon told RTÉ’s This Week programme: “The car went over a crest [in the road] and I don’t know if something broke or if he lost control, but he spun off the road into a fence and, I assume, into spectators.
“I heard people screaming: ‘Red flag, red flag, stop the stage.’ Then all hell broke loose.
“There were people crying, people white as ghosts. It was clear something serious had happened. Then someone announced that someone had been killed.”
A Cavan Motor Club spokesperson said the group “deeply regrets” the “tragic accident” and is doing all it can for the families involved.
“As a result of this incident, two people have suffered fatal injuries.
“Seven other spectators have been taken to hospital for further treatment. The extent of the injuries is not known.
“At this time all our energy is focused on the families of those involved in this tragic accident,” the spokesperson said, adding that “an investigation has begun into all facts surrounding the accident.”
Garda superintendent Gerry O’Brien said that officers are investigating the incident, but believe the car may have simply veered out of control as it went over the crest of a hill.
“One of the rally cars lost control coming over a hill and ran into some spectators,” he said. “As a result of that there are seven spectators currently in Cavan General Hospital and unfortunately, two of the spectators died at the scene.
“Basically, the car skidded left and right and then into the group of people and two are deceased. We are now launching a full investigation into how the accident happened,” he added.
The Cavan road was closed yesterday afternoon while the scene was examined by a forensic collision investigator.
The incident led to fresh calls for safety improvements in the sport, despite many of Ireland’s tracks having higher safety standards than continental competitions.
The crash occurred after 15 of the 93 participating rally cars had finished the race, which is among the top dozen rally car circuits in Ireland.
In a statement, Motorsport Ireland extended its sympathy to the families and friends of the two spectators killed and the seven injured during in the accident.
“Motorsport Ireland and its affiliated clubs are recognised internationally for operating to the highest standards of motorsport safety for competitors and spectators in line with the best practice of the FIA.”
“Motorsport Ireland has begun a full investigation with the relevant authorities into the events at today’s Cavan Stages Rally to establish how this accident occurred.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved