Don Theiler’s wife Janet Price, who was in her 60s, was killed on the afternoon of May 30 near the Kate Kearney’s Cottage side of the Gap when she collided with a trailer full of lambs after rounding an extremely sharp turn.
The couple, who are from Burien, Washington State, had spent two weeks travelling around Ireland and the day before they were due to return home to the US, they rented bikes to see the lakes of Killarney and the Gap of Dunloe.
The Gap, a public road through the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, is one of the most visited tourist routes in Ireland, famous since Victorian times.
In a letter, Mr Theiler describes chaotic scenes on the tourist route the day his wife lost her life.
The narrow road is shared by “hikers, a variety of bikers, tourist pony carts, farm vehicles and automobiles”, Mr Theiler tells the authorities.
There are numerous blind curves, with people and vehicles travelling in both directions, he details.
“There is virtually no signage on the road warning people of impending dangerous conditions ahead.”
Yet, he felt a few measures like mirrors would make it less hazardous. Before his wife was killed, they both had to dismount their bikes “and get off the road” to allow cars and vans, filled with tourists, to pass, Mr Theiler said.
“The specific location where Janet was killed is a prime example of these especially hazardous conditions. It is a very sharp turn, virtually a U-turn. Currently there is no signage, warning lights, mirrors or other transportation control measures alerting people to the potential dangers ahead. The road is too narrow for the vehicles to easily pass one another.
“It is impossible to see anything or anyone coming in the opposite direction until they are virtually on top of one another.”
He suggests limited access system, a gate for “authorised vehicles of residents and farmers, with an alternate access for pony carts, hikers and bicycles”.
Calling for an engineer’s survey to be carried out, Mr Theiler said: “My family and I are determined to pursue this matter to a reasonable conclusion, in part to ensure that something positive comes out of this tragic affair.” His letter to the department was also copied to local TDs and Kerry County Council.
Mayor of Killarney Brendan Cronin said he fully supported Mr Theiler’s calls for a survey and said extra signage and mirrors must be installed. However, before changes to access, there would have to be consultation with all parties — locals, ponymen, and people involved in tourism, he said.