South Kerry Coroner Terence Casey was speaking yesterday at an inquest into one of the worst road crashes in living memory that claimed the lives of four Kerry teenagers, including two brothers, on August 25 last.
The Hyundai Accent in which they were travelling careered into a ditch and struck a tree at Carigeen, Headford, on the main Killarney-Mallow road at 7.10am.
The deceased were David Breen, aged 17, of Hazelwood Drive, Ballyspillane, Killarney; his 15-year-old brother Kevin, of the same address; Áine Riordan, aged 15, of St John’s Park, Castleisland, and Brian Coffey, aged 19, of Crohane, Fossa, Killarney.
Garda forensic specialists estimate the car was travelling at a speed of between 99.2kph and 111kph when it went out of control, left the road, glanced off a ditch and hit a tree.
The inquest heard the Hyundai Accent, registered to John Fleming Crash Repairs, Killarney, was a courtesy car lent by the garage to Kyle O’Connor of Kilcummin, Killarney, whose own vehicle was being repaired.
Mr O’Connor, who had attended a party with Brian Coffey and Darragh Jones in the hours leading up to their deaths, said he left the car keys on the table and did not give anybody permission to use the vehicle.
The sole survivor of the crash, Darragh Jones of Killagh, Farranfore, Co Kerry, testified he and others had been at a late night party in Kilcummin. It was getting bright when a number of people left in the car and went to Killarney before calling to the Breen family home in Ballyspillane where they stayed for some time.
Mr Jones said it was bright when he returned to the car with the Breen brothers, Áine Riordan and Brian Coffey and they went for a drive on the road from Killarney to Millstreet.
Brian Coffey was driving, David Breen was in the front passenger seat and the other three passengers were in the back seat.
Mr Jones, aged 16 at the time, remarked: “It was flat out. The car was hopping. I kept my head down.”
After a while, the two front occupants swapped seats and David Breen drove the car. Mr Jones said the car was going too fast but he didn’t remember anything else until he woke up in Kerry General Hospital.
Motorist Pat O’Mahony, Headford, Killarney, said he was driving at a speed of between 35kph and 40kph at 7.05am when he noticed a silver car behind him. It overtook his vehicle on a continuous white line. Three miles further on, he saw the car in a ditch.
In a deposition read at the inquest, Trevor O’Connor, of Carigeen, Headford, Killarney, said he was at home with his daughter when he heard tyres screeching and a loud bang. He went out and saw a car in the ditch.
He felt a weak pulse in the only female occupant but he failed to detect a pulse in the driver. He shouted at his daughter, Nikita, to call a number of ambulances.
Test results showed Áine Riordan, Brian Coffey and David Breen had low levels of alcohol, ranging from 33mg to 43mg, in their blood, and there was no evidence of any drugs use. There was no trace of alcohol or drugs in the case of Kevin Breen.
The eight-man jury found that Áine Riordan, Kevin Breen and Brian Coffey all died due to injuries suffered in an accident. In the case of David Breen, who was driving the car at the time, the jury returned a verdict of misadventure
Coroner Terence Casey expressed his sympathy to the families of the deceased.
Mr Casey said he was reiterating a previous call on the legislators for new laws insisting drivers under the age of 25 must fit their vehicles with speed limiting devices.
“I called for it before when two young people were killed in a crash on the Killarney to Tralee road and I am calling on the legislators again today to introduce these speed limit devices into law,” he said.
Insp Barry O’Rourke also expressed sympathy to the families. “In a series of a few heartbeats, four young lives were lost in this terrible tragedy.” he said.