Worn clasp on helmet linked to son’s death

A MOTHER whose son died after his motorbike helmet failed and fell off during an accident called yesterday for better guarantees from helmet makers.

James Cassin, 19, from Wilderness Grove in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, suffered huge head injuries after his Suzuki 125 motorbike was struck side-on by a car on the Jackson’s Cross roundabout outside Clonmel a little after 9pm on October 12, 2006.

Cork Coroner’s Court was told that the impact forced open a clasp on the helmet strap, which locks under the chin.

The helmet fell off as Mr Cassin was thrown from the motorbike. His unprotected head struck the ground.

Alan Kavanagh of Arai Helmets examined the helmet in January 2007 and said it appeared as if the clasp’s locking mechanism had worn away due to wear and tear.

The helmet was made in China in 2005 but he said manufacturers usually only stand over their products for a year.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Cassin’s grieving mother, Elizabeth Ryan, said this wasn’t good enough.

“This was a relatively new helmet. I think the guarantees should be longer than 12 months,” she said.

The driver of the car, Declan Strange, a panel-beater from Clonmel, told the inquest that despite looking right as he approached the complex roundabout, he didn’t see Mr Cassin’s bike approach.

The roundabout’s central island is raised to a height of almost eight feet. But Mr Cassin’s family solicitor, Cian O’Carroll, used speed and distance calculations from the Garda collision experts to prove that Mr Cassin was negotiating the roundabout as Mr Strange looked right from his Western Road approach lane.

The calculations also proved that Mr Strange had a sight-line that should have allowed him see traffic approaching from the right.

The front of Mr Strange’s car struck the side of the motorbike a split second after Mr Strange drove on to the roundabout.

Mr Cassin was brought to St Joseph’s Hospital in Cashel but was transferred to the neurosurgery unit of Cork University Hospital the following day. He died on October 14 from head injuries.

Forensic collision investigator Sergeant John Moore said excessive speed was not a factor in the accident. Mr Strange was subsequently convicted of careless driving, fined and banned from driving for three months.

Clonmel Garda Sergeant James Connolly said he has made a number of road safety recommendations to Clonmel Borough Council in relation to the design and layout of Jackson’s Cross roundabout. But as of yesterday, no alterations have been made.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and recommended that the roundabout reviews be implemented. Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said she would bring the inquest proceedings to the attention of the council.

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