A motorist involved in a fatal collision has told an inquest that she had no chance to avoid hitting a young cyclist who suddenly came out of a driveway onto a quiet country road in Co. Kildare three years ago.
Linda Capuzzo told a hearing into the death of Shane Duggan (16) at Dublin District Coroner’s Court that she collided with the teenager as he emerged at speed from a concealed entrance to a house at Oughterard, Straffan, Co. Kildare on July 3, 2018.
Shane of Turnings, Straffan, Co. Kildare died of injuries sustained in the collision with the vehicle driven by Ms Capuzzo four days later at Beaumont Hospital.
Ms Capuzzo said she was travelling in a Ford Focus from her workplace at Grange Castle in Clondalkin when the accident occurred at around 4.40pm.
She told the inquest she jammed on her brakes on seeing the cyclist and swerved towards the middle of the road to try and avoid hitting him.
“I want to make it clear I had no opportunity to avoid the collision,” Ms Capuzzo said. “It all happened so quickly.”
The inquest heard that Shane – a 3rd Year student at Castleknock College – and his twin brother, Conor, were with a group of friends who had been playing in the swimming pool of one of their friend’s houses before they decided to go to the nearby GAA club in Ardclough on their bicycles.
One of the friends, Fintan O’Malley, said Shane was the first of the group to head out the driveway of the house and had looked back just before going out on the road.
He described seeing his friend being “flung in the air” by the impact of the collision.
Another friend, Conor Halpenny, said the sound of the crash was “like a gunshot”.
The inquest heard that there were no mechanical defects with either the car or the bicycle while Ms Capuzzo had passed a breathalyser test at the scene of the collision.
In response to queries from Shane’s parents, Derek and Mary Duggan, Garda witnesses said no mobile phone was seized as part of their investigation.
Garda Cliff Harding, a forensic collision investigator, said the point of impact was the front passenger side of the vehicle outside the entrance to the driveway. He said the cyclist had been thrown onto a grass verge 23.6 metres from where the collision occurred.
Garda Harding estimated that Ms Capuzzo’s vehicle was travelling at 54-62km/h at the time of the collision on a road that had an 80km/h speed limit.
While the teenager’s family expressed concern that foliage on the side of the road approaching the entrance to the driveway was cut in the days after the collision, Garda Harding said he did not believe the foliage at the time of the crash was a contributory factor.
Sergeant Gerald Goode said CCTV footage at the entrance to the driveway had captured the collision which showed the deceased being catapulted in the air followed by his friends running to come to his assistance.
The coroner, Dr Crona Gallagher, noted that a file on the incident had been forwarded to the DPP who directed that no prosecution should arise in the case.
The inquest heard that Shane’s parents had donated their son’s organs which had helped two other patients after he suffered a brain stem death from severe head injuries sustained in the crash.
Based on the evidence, Dr Gallagher recorded a verdict of accidental death. The coroner said she would also notify Kildare County Council “without prejudice” to review hedge cutting at the location of the collision.
“It was a very tragic accident to boys who were enjoying themselves on a summer day in a carefree way that young people do,” Dr Gallagher remarked.
Fighting back tears, Shane’s father, Derek Duggan, described his son as “a brilliant character” who would always be part of their family.