High-speed crash victim had drugs in system

A MAN who died in a car crash after a Garda pursuit through Cork’s rush-hour traffic had a cocktail of alcohol and valium in his system, an inquest was told yesterday.

William O’Driscoll, aged 36, from Kenley Circle, Model Farm Road, Cork, died from massive head, chest and abdomen injuries after he lost control of his car on Cork’s busy South Ring Road on Saturday, February 10 last.

His two-litre injection Opel Vectra was pursued by one Garda car for several miles before the accident.

It was speeding and weaving in and out of traffic on the main Cork to Dublin road leading to the Jack Lynch Tunnel.

It was travelling at least 120 kilometres per hour and was being pursued by three Garda cars when it clipped the back of a car being driven in the middle of the three-lane South Ring Road by student Garda Claire Sutton at about 5.40pm.

The impact caused the front right wheel of the Vectra to deflate sending Mr O’Driscoll’s car out of control.

His car passed Garda Sutton’s car on the left, veered right across two lanes of traffic and smashed into the dual carriageway’s central barrier.

The Vectra then bounced back and careered left across three lanes of traffic before slamming into a tree-lined ditch near Vernon Mount.

Mr O’Driscoll, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was flung out of the car through the driver’s window.

He suffered horrific injuries including a broken neck and massive internal organ damage. His right arm was severed at the elbow.

Despite efforts by ambulance crews, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cork Coroner’s Court was told that the accident occurred after a 15km pursuit by gardaí which started after a report of dangerous driving near a halting site between Watergrasshill and Glanmire, north of Cork city, at about 5.15pm.

Garda Brian Larkin responded in a marked Garda car and said as he approached Mr O’Driscoll’s parked car, it sped off.

He pursued with his blue lights flashing and watched as the car veered across the road a number of times. The pursuit moved on to the main N8 Cork to Dublin road where Mr O’Driscoll slowed in the hard shoulder, but sped off again.

Garda Larkin followed about 50 metres behind and said he became concerned as they approached the Jack Lynch Tunnel and he activated his siren to warn motorists ahead.

But as they approached the busy Dunkettle interchange, Mr O’Driscoll drove his car onto the grass verge, through red lights and across the roundabout into the tunnel.

A jury of three men and three women was shown CCTV footage of both cars entering and leaving the tunnel.

Just seconds out of the tunnel, Mr O’Driscoll stopped in his lane of traffic but sped off within seconds. Garda Larkin said it was not safe for him to get out of his car.

Meanwhile, two Garda patrol cars moved into position on the Mahon flyover farther west to offer back-up to Garda Larkin.

The Garda drivers were planning to intercept Mr O’Driscoll’s vehicle by driving down a slip road against the flow of traffic to get ahead of him.

But as he approached the flyover, he stopped again in his lane of traffic, but revved his engine, and sped towards one of the patrol cars coming toward him.

Garda Sean O’Regan said he had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. Gardaí decided to ease off and follow from a distance.

However, less than a mile down the road, Mr O’Driscoll lost control of his car and crashed.

An autopsy showed he had a blood alcohol level of 90mg/centilitre — 10mg above the legal limit — and levels of valium within prescribed limits.

The combination suppressed his central nervous system, the inquest was told.

The jury returned a verdict of death due to misadventure.

West Cork-based Garda Superintendent Pat Maher was appointed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.

He said a file on the matter was sent to the DPP who directed that no prosecutions be brought.

He said he was satisfied that all gardaí involved in the pursuit had followed procedures properly.

Mr O’Driscoll’s wife of 14 years, mother-of-four Ann Foley, sat through the entire three-hour hearing but declined to comment afterwards. Another relative had walked out of the hearing earlier in disgust.

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