Priest expressed delight at not being transferred just minutes before his death, inquest hears

Fr Con Cronin died after being struck by a bus driven by Mark Willis, who had suffered a fatal cardiac event

A popular priest had just expressed relief at not being transferred from his Cork parish when he was struck by a bus that went out of control after the driver suffered a cardiac event, an inquest has heard.

Fr Con Cronin (72) had just left the Bosun pub and restaurant in Monkstown, Co Cork with parish secretary Catherine Concannon when the Bus Éireann single decker bus being driven by Mark Willis (51) struck him as he crossed the road at about 1.30pm on August 3rd, 2021.

Ms Concannon told the joint inquest into the men’s deaths that Fr Cronin, a former missionary and a native of Coomhola near Bantry, was “extremely happy” to learn he was not being moved in the series of transfers announced by Bishop of Cork and Ross Fintan Gavin.

“We were about halfway across the road when I saw a bus speeding across the road on the footpath. The bus was scraping the wall at speed…I heard Fr Con saying, ‘What is he doing?’ The next thing I remember is the bus had gone past me and I was standing on my own screaming ‘Where is Fr Con’?” she said.


Emergency medical consultant Dr Eoin Fogarty arrived at the scene to find people carrying out chest compressions on Mr Wills. He assisted before pronouncing him dead at 2.20pm. He said he had to wait for the fire services to lift the bus off Fr Cronin, whom he pronounced dead at 2.50pm.

Lost consciousness

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster said Mr Wills suffered a cardiac event and lost consciousness. His cause of death was ventricular hypertrophy - a thickening of the wall of the heart’s main pumping chamber - with dilation and coronary artery disease.

She said Fr Cronin died from blunt force trauma with multiple fractures of the ribs, haemothorax or bleeding into the plural cavity between the lungs and chest, bruising and cuts to the lungs and multiple long bone fractures and mild traumatic brain injury.

Garda Tim McSweeney was the first garda on the scene and recalled breaking the news to Mr Wills’ wife, Deirdre that her husband had died when she arrived at the scene. He also revealed that he obtained CCTV footage from the Ensign pub which captured the collision.

Garda Ray O’Brien, a tachograph analyst, found that the bus had reached a speed of 38km/h after leaving a bus stop just 320m away less than a minute earlier. It came to a very sudden stop when it mounted the footpath, scraped the wall and hit some parked cars, he said.

Garda Padraig Coughlan, a PSV Inspector, examined the bus and was satisfied that it was in a road worthy condition prior to the crash. He found no evidence of any mechanical defects that contributed to the collision.

Forensic crash investigator Garda Ray Sweeney said the bus was travelling at 39km/h when it struck the wall. He said he viewed CCTV footage which captured the event.


It showed that Ms Concannon spotted the bus some 10 seconds before impact and turned around and went out of the way, he said. However, Fr Cronin only spotted the bus coming for him four seconds before impact. He tried to run across the road to the footpath but the bus struck with him before he could get to safety. Garda Sweeney said there was no attempt by the driver to react, suggesting he had lost consciousness.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘miracle’ but the fact that other people were not struck by the bus was remarkable,” he said.

Dr Bre Sullivan, an occupational health physician with CIE, told the inquest that Mr Wills was medically examined in 2018 and had been given a five year clearance for his bus driver’s licence after meeting fitness to drive guidelines.

Asked by South Cork Coroner Frank O’Connell about the fact that Dr Bolster had found evidence at postmortem that Mr Wills suffered from ventricular hypertrophy, Dr Sullivan said Mr Wills was examined by a cardiologist in 2017 and was deemed fit to hold a D licence to drive buses.

The jury returned a verdict of death due to natural causes in the case of Mr Wills, from Carrigdeane, Ballincollig. A verdict of accidental death when struck by a bus while crossing the road was returned in the case of Fr Cronin, from the Parochial House, Passage West.

The coroner extended his sympathies to the Wills family on their loss and said he knew Fr Cronin personally, describing him as “a fantastic guy and a breath of fresh air, always full of the joys of spring”.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times