Slain cyclist was 'available to be seen' by lorry driver

Incident took place on the morning of Friday November 1, 2019, when cyclist was struck by a cement truck near the site of the new National Children's Hospital
Slain cyclist was 'available to be seen' by lorry driver

Neeraj Jain, a cyclist killed in a road crash on  November 1, 2019, outside the site of National Children's Hospital in Dublin. Picture courtesy of family's legal team.

A cyclist killed in a road crash metres away from the new National Children’s Hospital construction site in Dublin was “available to be seen” by the driver of the lorry prior to the crash and the incident may have been avoided, an inquest has heard.

Dublin city coroner Aisling Gannon delivered a narrative verdict in the inquest into the death of Neeraj Jain, 34, having previously indicated it was also open to her to deliver a verdict of accidental death. 

A narrative verdict is when a coroner issues a summary of the circumstances surrounding a person's death without attributing the cause to an individual.

The incident took place on the morning of Friday November 1, 2019, when Mr Jain was struck by a cement truck at the junction of South Circular Road and Brookfield Road.

Residents and campaigners called for improved cycling infrastructure in the city, in the wake of Mr Jain's death. Local groups also said they had raised issues about the safety of the road, particularly with trucks going in and out of the hospital construction site. 

On the day in question, a witness said 15 cement trucks had passed through from 7am that morning.

Mr Jain, who was originally from Faridabad in India, had moved to Ireland in 2017 to undertake a masters degree at UCD.

His brother and sister were in attendance via Zoom for the inquest verdict on Tuesday. Esther Earley BL, instructed by Harrington Solicitors for the family, said they were “very grateful” to the gardaí and coroner for their work in this matter.

Garda evidence 

Giving evidence at the inquest, Sergeant Ray Andrews of Kevin Street Garda Station said a comprehensive file had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions and that no prosecution was directed.

When asked the cause of the incident, he said: “It was an incident that happened in a split second that the driver could not have avoided.” 

In his statement, he recalled speaking to the driver of the lorry — who is now also deceased — who informed him he was driving from the South Circular Road to the site on St James’s and had swung out to take the turn when he felt a “bump” and initially thought he had hit the footpath.

In his evidence, Garda forensic collision expert John Culleton described how Mr Jain was cycling along the roadway, and then onto the footpath when he would have first been visible by the driver of the lorry.

When the lorry turned from South Circular Road onto Brookfield Road just by the National Children’s Hospital centre site, Mr Jain had pedalled his bike back onto the roadway and this is when the crash occurred. There was no dedicated cycle lane on the road.

When asked if Mr Jain would have been visible to the driver, Garda Culleton said the driver may have looked into the mirror on the left-hand side while Mr Jain was still on the footpath and not seen him there.

Garda Culleton said the driver may have been expecting the cyclist to still to be on the footpath when making the turn. But, he said, if the driver had checked the appropriate mirror when Mr Jain came back onto the roadway, the driver would have seen him and “carried out a reaction” to avoid a collision such as braking or beeping his horn.

Garda Culleton said the cyclist “would’ve been available to be seen” by the driver of the lorry, but based on the driver’s actions, Mr Jain was not seen.

He said events as they transpired happen in the “minutiae” of a few seconds, an “Olympic timescale to hundredths of a second”, and it was an “unfortunate” incident which resulted in Mr Jain’s death.

Witness accounts 

A number of witness statements were read out in court, including from workers on the National Children’s Hospital site and first responders.

One man, who worked at the gate which acted as the entrance to the site and gave instructions to arriving trucks on where to deliver their cargo, described how he heard “screaming” as he turned to see a truck driving towards him.

“I said stop, stop something bad has happened,” he said. “It's like he doesn't know. The driver says ‘what, what’. He doesn't seem to know what happens.” 

The witness described running to the back of the truck and seeing Mr Jain on the ground next to his damaged motorcycle.

Another witness, also a worker on the site, described hearing a “loud impact like a thud sound” which he could “tell it was something serious”. He described workers putting high-vis jackets over the deceased prior to the arrival of first responders.

The inquest heard Mr Jain had not been wearing a helmet or high-vis gear at the time of the crash.

Brother’s statement

Attending via Zoom at the inquest proceedings was the deceased’s brother Ashish Jain. In a statement read out at the court, he spoke of his brother’s love of badminton and his passion for computers.

“He was the youngest,” Ashish Jain said of Seeraj. “Having finished school, he did an engineering degree. He was very studious. He loved his job, and it have him opportunities to travel.” 

In 2017, Mr Jain arrived in Ireland to complete a masters’ course at UCD, along with his wife. He later joined Deloitte, working there following a six-month internship. He and his wife separated in the summer of 2018.

The brothers were in “regular contact”, and the pair spoke briefly at about 7am on the morning that Mr Jain was involved in the incident.

“Last time I spoke to him was on the day of his death,” he said, and mentioned how they planned to meet in New York soon when they were both there for work.

Verdict

Coroner Aisling Gannon said the medical evidence available to her was clear that Mr Jain died from massive multiple trauma as a result of cerebral injury, due to the incident involving a cyclist and a motorist.

She said she had two options available to her when it came to the verdict. One was a verdict of accidental death, and the other was a narrative verdict.

Instructed by David Harrington of Harrington Solicitors, on behalf of the family of Mr Jain, Esther Early BL called for a narrative verdict to be delivered by the coroner.

“The cyclist was available to be seen, albeit if he had been checking various mirrors, I don’t think it’s as straightforward as accidental death given the way matters were explored with Mr Culleton and the various issues,” Ms Earley said.

Ms Earley said a primary question for the family of the deceased was how Mr Jain was not seen by the driver prior to the incident.

Having heard evidence and submissions on Monday, Ms Gannon delivered her narrative verdict on Tuesday afternoon.

Having gone through the evidence, Ms Gannon pointed to the evidence given by Garda Culleton that Mr Jain was “available to be seen” by the driver of the lorry as she ruled out a verdict of accidental death.

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