Drunk and aggressive passenger thrown off bus killed by passing vehicle

An inquest at Kildare Coroner’s Court heard Stephen O’Driscoll, 24, had been told to get off the bus by the driver after hitting his sister, Chloe, in the face and becoming aggressive and abusive
Drunk and aggressive passenger thrown off bus killed by passing vehicle

Barry O'Driscoll, father, and Chloe O'Driscoll, sister of the late Stephen O'Driscoll at Naas Courthouse  after giving evidence to Kildare District Coroner's Court at the inquest of Stephen O'Driscoll, who died on December 7, 2019, after being struck by a car on the M9 Motorway. Picture: Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin

A drunk passenger who was left on the side of a dark motorway after being thrown off a bus after becoming violent was killed a short time later by a passing vehicle, an inquest has heard.

Stephen O’Driscoll, 24, was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision on the M9 near the junction at Kilcullen, Co Kildare, on December 7, 2019.

An inquest at Kildare Coroner’s Court heard the father of one from The Laurels, Tullow Road, Carlow, had been told to get off the bus by the driver of a J J Kavanagh service operating from Dublin Airport to Waterford after hitting his sister, Chloe, in the face and becoming aggressive and abusive.

The driver, Johannes Benade, gave evidence that Mr O’Driscoll and his sister had been joking and in good humour when they boarded the bus in Dublin, while all passengers appeared to be in a relaxed Christmas mood.

However, he said his attention was drawn to an incident by another passenger during the journey who said: “He’s punched her in the face. You got to do something about it.” Mr Benade said other passengers were so afraid they had moved up towards the front of the bus and he saw Ms O’Driscoll’s face was bleeding.

Atmosphere of fear

“There was an atmosphere of fear from the passengers,” he recalled.

The driver said that after escorting her brother off the bus, Mr O’Driscoll kicked the door twice.

Although Mr O’Driscoll’s sister also wanted to get off the bus, the driver said he would not let her as he feared for her safety.

Mr Benade said he was assessing the situation to see if he could allow the passenger back on the bus when the window of the bus door was shattered by a naggin bottle of vodka thrown by Mr O’Driscoll.

“Up to that point I was happy to let him back,” he added.

A family photo of the late Stephen O'Driscoll and his son Caíl. Picture: Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin
A family photo of the late Stephen O'Driscoll and his son Caíl. Picture: Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin

The driver said he then decided to move off as the passenger’s behaviour was both unpredictable and violent and his paramount concern was for the safety of his other passengers.

He stopped about 500m down the road and decided to continue on the journey after checking other passengers were happy to do so.

Mr Benade said he got a call the following day to inform him a male had been knocked down on the motorway near where the incident happened.

Offering condolences to Mr O’Driscoll’s family, he said: “I did not mean for any harm to come to this man.” 

Mr Benade said he had not received any training in crowd control and he was unsure if he would have been able to manage the situation if Mr O’Driscoll had been allowed back on the bus.

He could not say if stopping the bus and waiting for gardaí to arrive might also have further endangered other passengers.

The driver said J J Kavanagh had no procedure in place at the time to deal with such a situation but had introduced a new policy two weeks later where drivers were to alert management who would advise on what to do.

A passenger on the bus, Bridget Veale, said the driver had acted in a cool, calm and non-aggressive manner in a dangerous situation.

Sister's evidence

Chloe O’Driscoll described to the coroner, Professor Denis Cusack, how she and her brother had travelled to Dublin earlier that day for some Christmas shopping.

She said the pair had consumed alcohol on the train journey to Dublin, while Stephen had bought a naggin of vodka before getting the bus home.

Ms O’Driscoll said her brother was in happy form and there had been no issue between them all day.

During the bus journey home when they were sitting on the back seat, she said Stephen got up suddenly and hit her on the face.

She said her brother had a strange look in his eyes and “looked as if he didn’t know me”. Ms O’Driscoll, who stayed on the bus to Carlow, said she tried calling him after he was removed from the bus but his mobile phone was dead.

The inquest heard how several motorists had to take evasive action after suddenly coming across Mr O’Driscoll on the motorway.

Motorist's evidence

Michael Malone, the motorist who struck Mr O’Driscoll, said a man suddenly appeared in front of him on the M9 running from his side of the vehicle towards the hard shoulder.

Motorist Michael Malone leaving Naas Courthouse this afternoon after giving evidence to Kildare District Coroner's Court. Picture: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin
Motorist Michael Malone leaving Naas Courthouse this afternoon after giving evidence to Kildare District Coroner's Court. Picture: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Mr Malone, who was driving from Dublin Airport to his home in Borris, Co Carlow, said the incident “happened in a split second”.

A forensic collision investigator, Garda John Culliton, said Mr Malone had no reasonable opportunity to avoid hitting the pedestrian given the visibility of dipped lights on an unlit section of motorway in poor weather conditions.

A post mortem revealed that Mr O’Driscoll died from multiple injuries to his body.

It also showed he had consumed alcohol over seven times the legal drink driving limit, while cocaine and other drugs were also found in his body.

Returning a verdict of accidental death, the coroner said the presence of cocaethylene, a stimulant, could have explained the victim’s unexpected and uncharacteristic behaviour on the night.

Prof Cusak also recommended that the Road Safety Authority and Health and Safety Authority should review training, procedures and policies for bus drivers with regard to the safety of passengers and other road users in order to prevent any similar death in future.

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