Michael Jackson of Ballycastle, Co Mayo, and a friend were separately driving vans, in tandem, towards Killala at 3am on June 10, last year, when Mr Jackson noticed something lying on the dark road ahead. He tried to avoid it but felt a slight bump and continued on to Killala.
When he pulled up, he noticed that the front bumper was damaged on the driver’s side and his friend also recalled feeling a slight bump as he had followed behind Michael. Both men immediately returned to where the incident had occurred.
To their horror, they discovered a man’s body on the road. They immediately called the emergency services. It was only several hours later that Michael was given the horrifying news that the body was that of Frankie Bonner, 65, of Ballycastle, father of his girlfriend, Maggie.
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A consultant pathologist told Mr Bonner’s inquest late last year that he had suffered multiple fatal injuries to the head, trunk and legs. The alcohol level reading from his blood was high enough for him to go unconscious.
A garda told the inquest that he did not know what happened to Mr Bonner prior to being driven over, but he may have fallen over.
Both Michael Jackson and his friend tested negative for alcohol and, following a garda investigation, the DPP decided against any prosecutions.
The coroner for north Mayo, Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald said the accident showed the dangers of walking home from a pub in rural areas. She said it was very risky, especially with alcohol consumed.
Michael Jackson revealed the accident had devastated the families involved and he found it very hard to deal with: “It was pure shock — we didn’t know for hours afterwards who it was. It was hard for the family and for the drivers too.
“I suppose people don’t usually consider the driver at such times, but it had a terrible effect on me.
“I know it wasn’t our fault and Maggie’s family was very good about it.
“I’m getting there now, but I’m still not able to drive at night on my own. If I see someone out on the road at night without a high-vis jacket I’ll just freeze.”
Michael and Maggie are now backing a campaign initiated by the road safety office of Mayo County Council to drive home the message for late-night revellers to ensure they get a lift home or wear a high-visibility jacket if they have to walk.