Their lives were ‘snuffed out in a moment of madness’
Offaly coroner says alcohol and speed combined to kill four men in crash
The scene in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where four men died following a two-vehicle collision on August 10th, 2012. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
The lives of three brothers and a friend were “snuffed out needlessly” in a “moment of madness” when alcohol and speed combined, Offaly coroner Brian Mahon said yesterday.
Tallaght, Co Dublin, natives Darren (27), David (24) and Ryan Doyle (17) were killed along with their friend Lee Bryan (24) on August 10th, 2012. All four lived in the same estate in Portarlington.
The four men were travelling in Mr Bryan’s car when it collided with an oncoming 30-seater bus at the townland of Meelaghans on the Portarlington road about 2km outside Tullamore.
Dr Mahon struggled to recall “a tragedy of such massive proportions” during his tenure in Tullamore.
“Their lives on that day were simply snuffed out in a moment of madness really,” he said.
Lessons to be learned
Stating that there were lessons to be learned from every accident, Dr Mahon said “a lethal combination of alcohol and speed led these young fellas to their deaths”.
“It just begs belief as to how the families of these four men have been in a position to deal with this,” Dr Mahon added.
Dr Margaret Lynch, pathologist at the Midland Regional Hospital at Tullamore, warned family members that “this evidence is quite upsetting”.
Dr Lynch read toxicology reports on the victims which revealed all had alcohol in their blood.
Dr Lynch said Mr Bryan’s reading of 314mgs was at a level associated with people going into a stupor.
The three brothers had lower levels of alcohol in their blood with Darren at 161mgs, David at 176mgs and Ryan at 166mgs.
After Dr Lynch outlined the injuries suffered by each of the men, Dr Mahon asked her whether they were the most extensive injuries she had ever seen.
“Absolutely, without a doubt,” Dr Lynch replied, before agreeing that death would have been “instantaneous”.
She also agreed with the coroner’s observation that, short of an aircrash, you would not have seen injuries of this severity.
On hearing the four men had five children between them – Darren was a father-of-two, David a father-of-two and Mr Bryan a father-of-one – the coroner said: “I am just so sad for the parents and their partners and children.”
He also sympathised with witnesses, gardaí and paramedics, “all of whom were greatly affected”.
Portarlington resident Sinead Fletcher had been visiting a park in Tullamore with the men earlier on that sunny day.
“It’s a day that will never be forgotten,” she said.
She described the men as great fun and full of energy and said they arrived at 3.30pm and had been playing football.
Ms Fletcher, who did not see any of the men consume alcohol, said the friends decided to leave without explanation at about 5.10pm.
Bus driver John Keyes (54) had two passengers in his bus when he saw an oncoming car swerve in his direction.
“I did everything I could to avoid it,” he told the inquest.
Mr Keyes said the car collided with the front of the bus and he thought it collided at an angle.
He suffered bruising and cuts in the collision and the other men had minor injuries.
Frank O’Rourke was in a four-wheel drive behind the bus.
He “saw a car veer towards the centre lane and correct himself”.
On the third occasion it veered, the car collided and “exploded immediately”, he recalled.
Mr O’Rourke’s wife said the “car just seemed to come straight across the road”.
“This wasn’t under correction,” she said.
She too recalled that “it exploded” but said there was no fire.
Moments before the collision Gerry Griffin was overtaken by the car as he drove towards Portarlington from Tullamore.
“The speed they were doing was too fast,” he said.
He came on the scene but said he “tried to avoid looking at the car, it was cut in two”.
Garda Michael Nolan from the traffic core investigated the crash.
“The Honda Civic was split and the engine was crushed and shattered all over the scene,” he said.
According to Garda Nolan, neither vehicle had defects and the collision was caused by the Honda “crossing the road into the path of an oncoming Mercedes bus”.
Handbrake fully up
Although the Honda had its handbrake fully up, there were no marks from locked wheels and Garda Nolan believes it “was rotating at the time of the collision”.
“I’m satisfied that excessive speed was a factor in this collision,” he told the inquest.