Mother over limit before fatal crash, inquest told

A young mother who was involved in a double fatal car crash was over the legal alcohol limit when she drove in the wrong direction on a dual carriageway.

An inquest in Cork yesterday heard that other motorists flashed warning lights at her oncoming vehicle just seconds before the head-on collision on the outskirts of Cork city last year.

Aoife Callanan, aged 25, from Coolroe Heights, Ballincollig, Cork, and John Joe Galvin, 17, from Hilltown, Ballymitty, Co Wexford, both died instantly when her car struck his on the N25 Cork-Midleton road at Courtstown, Little Island, at around 12 midnight on Mar 18.

Ms Callanan was the sole occupant of a Toyota Corolla. Mr Galvin was driving a VW Golf with his friend, Nicholas Ely, in the front passenger seat.

Mr Galvin made a desperate attempt to veer out of the way but could not avoid the collision. Mr Ely was seriously injured and cannot remember the collision.

A sitting of Cork Coroner’s Court in Midleton heard Ms Callanan was driving in the wrong direction along the city-bound road when the crash happened.

Coroner Frank O’Connell said it was clear from the evidence that Ms Callanan thought she was driving on the correct side of the road.

“For whatever reason, Ms Callanan got herself onto the wrong side of the dual carriageway and was driving in the fast lane.

“Almost certainly she was proceeding on the basis she was driving on a two-way road.”

He said Mr Galvin would have faced a very unusual situation of a car driving down the wrong side of the dual carriageway.

“There was a head-on collision and two young lives were lost.”

John Lucey, who was driving from Midleton to Cork, was one of several motorists who told the double inquest they saw Ms Callanan’s car on the wrong side of the road.

“I was in the left lane when I saw headlights coming towards me. I slowed down and flashed my lights.

“It was not speeding or driving erratically. It was just driving in the wrong direction. I slowed down and I heard a very loud bang.”

An autopsy conducted by assistant state pathologist Dr Margot Bolster found Ms Callanan died of haemorrhage and shock.

It also found her blood alcohol level was 157 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, at a time when the legal limit was 80.

Mr Galvin died from blunt force trauma to the chest. An autopsy found no traces of alcohol or drugs in his system.

The jury returned verdicts of accidental death in both cases.

William Clancy, Ms Callanan’s workmate at Amazon, said they both went to the International Hotel after work on Mar 17 and had between five and six drinks. He said he did not drink.

He said Ms Callanan then drove into Cork city and that they visited a bar before going to a restaurant.

She dropped him off at his aunt’s house on the Model Farm Road later.

Mr Clancy described Aoife as a person who loved her job and who was “bubbly and very happy”.

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