Firefighter breaks down at fatal crash trial

A FIREFIGHTER broke down in court as he spoke about a horrific crash that resulted in the deaths of a garda and a firefighter.

Foynes fire service station officer Michael Donnellan broke down yesterday as he recalled the horror crash at Limerick Circuit Court.

Niall Shannon, 20, of Lenamore, Ballylongford, Co Kerry, denies a charge of dangerous driving with excess alcohol causing the deaths of Garda Brian Kelleher, 46, and Mike Liston, 47, at Barrigone between Foynes and Askeaton on February 25, 2007.

Defence counsel Anthony Sammon said they accepted that the garda breath test carried out on the defendant was a valid one showing a reading of 55 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (the limit is 35).

Two men who were with the accused in the car at the time of the crash told the court that they did not think he was speeding at the time.

Colm O’Leary from Listowel said Shannon had a pint or two that night. While he said Shannon was travelling at normal speed, he accepted the speedometer was not working.

Brendan Curtin from Moyvane said he saw a blue light flashing and a fireman on the road before they went around a bend and he braced himself.

Garda Oliver O’Sullivan said on meeting Niall Shannon at the scene he got a fresh smell of alcohol from him and he could even “taste it in my mouth”.

Emergency medical technician Andrew Connaughton went to an accident call in an ambulance with colleague Pat Earls.

Nobody was injured in that accident but while at the scene, he heard a loud bang and voices shouting “look out, look out”.

“I heard another loud bang like and explosion and saw a car appear out of nowhere from the Foynes direction. I saw a cloud of steam and somebody being dragged along by the car — straddled across the roof of this car.” This person was fired off the roof of the car onto a wall.

“A man appeared on the ground beside me and I know now that he was Garda Brian Kelleher. If you could believe it he came down from the sky and fell on the ground beside me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

Firefighter Michael Donnellan said he went to the scene of the first crash after 5am and as he approached he spoke to firefighter Ian Behan, who was waving a flashing beacon light in his hand. A warning sign 2ft-high with the words, “Firebrigade Incident” had been placed on the road.

Further up the road the scene was lit by a 7 metre high stem-light, flashing lights on the fire appliance, a patrol car, ambulance and a low loader truck.

As a girl involved in the earlier crash was going into an ambulance, he heard a bang and loud noise. After that there was shouting, roaring and loud noises.

Mr Donnellan denied that his van obliterated the flashing lights at the rear of the fire appliance.

Mr Sammon said that the accused could not pull up safely between where firefighter Ian Behan was standing and the scene of the first incident because the firefighter should have been positioned further away.

Mr Donnellan did not accept this and said when he drove towards the scene Mr Behan’s warning light was visible 200 metres away.

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