There were a number of flakes of silver paint on the road, indicating where the car driven by Sean Collins hit cyclist Stefan Cooper from behind.
A portion of a number plate was found elsewhere, and, in a different spot, a Toyota badge. The bicycle carrier and saddle were on the road’s edge. Mr Cooper’s body was across the yellow line on the hard shoulder. He was missing his left shoe.
The scene of the incident which killed the 18-year-old on the dark evening of March 18, 2016, was outlined before coroner Frank O’Connell yesterday, including that hair was found in the windshield of the Toyota Landcruiser jeep and in the left side wiper.
The court also heard that Mr Cooper was not wearing hi-vis clothing, nor reflective clothing, did not seem to have lights on his bike, and possibly just one reflector. The court also heard Garda evidence that Mr Cooper was found 39m down the road from the likely point of impact on the N71 outside Rosscarbery, West Cork, with Garda Ray Sweeney, the forensic scene investigator, remarking: “The braking effort after the collision was slow.”
The incident occurred on March 8, 2016, at Barley Hill on the N71 outside Rosscarbery, with Mr Cooper, from Barryroe, Tragumna, near Skibbereen in West Cork, returning following a lengthy cycle which took him to Innishannon, before he turned for the home leg.
Mr O’Connell heard from a number of witnesses, including Mr Collins, 71, the man driving the Toyota Landcruiser which struck Mr Cooper’s red Trek 27-speed bike.
The first witness, Tom Ahern, said he was travelling to meet friends in Skibbereen and had pulled into the Celtic Ross Hotel, Roscarberry, before resuming his journey. After 7pm and with the weather wet and “pitch black”, he said he started his descent on Barley Hill when he suddenly saw a cyclist on his left, causing him to swerve to avoid hitting him. He said he noticed another car behind him having to do the same.
Further down the road, Mr Ahern decided to do a U-turn to offer the cyclist a lift, as he was worried he was going to be killed, but by the time he returned, he found a different scene, with Mr Cooper’s body on the hard shoulder, and his bike in the ditch. Two other people placed jackets over the body, as the emergency services were called.
The Landcruiser driver, Mr Collins, who hit Mr Cooper from behind, said: “I saw nothing until the windscreen smashed.”
He said he froze afterwards and was in shock.
Garda Mark Curtis told the court weather conditions were so poor that night that the patrol car could not drive at speed to the scene from Clonakilty. He said conditions had been much better when Mr Cooper had set off on his cycle.
Garda Thomas Brosnan said an examination of Mr Collins’ car showed it had been in good condition, with fully-functioning ABS brakes.
Gda Sweeney noted that the crash had occurred in a 100kmph zone and on a 2.85 degree slope. He estimated the vehicle’s speed at between 69km/h and 82km/h at the time of impact. Noting the slow braking speed after impact, the coroner said the vehicle had “continued on for an unexpected distance”.
Assistant state pathologist Margot Bolster said multiple injuries were noted in the autopsy, with cause of death coming from upper cervical spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injuries, due to a road traffic collision.
“He would not have suffered at all,” said Dr Bolster.
Summing up to the jury, Mr O’Connell said the car struck Mr Cooper “square on”. He also referred to a recent conviction in the circuit court related to the case.
Mr Collins received a suspended sentence after pleading guilty earlier this year to careless driving and drink driving that night.
The jury in the coroners court yesterday recorded a verdict of accidental death. Addressing the coroner, Stefan’s father, Christy, said: “Alcohol did play a part in this collision, which wasn’t mentioned. He was three times over the limit.”