All drivers in fatal accidents should be breathalysed, says inquest

Cork Coroners Court hears inquest into accidental death of motorcyclist Joe Holten

A jury at the inquest into the death of a young motorcyclist has recommended that all drivers involved in fatal road traffic collisions be breathalysed at the scene or have blood samples taken for analysis if they are admitted to hospital for treatment.

The jury at Cork City Coroners Court made the recommendation as they returned a verdict of accidental death in the case of Cork Institute of Technology student, Joe Holten, who died when he was catapulted from his motorbike after he crashed into the back of a car on the South Ring Road.

Mr Holten (27) from Glanmire, Co Cork was thrown from his bike over the central median of the dual carriageway and died at the scene of the collision on March 11th, 2014 from traumatic brain injury and blunt force trauma to the chest.

Mr Holten was travelling eastward along the dual carriageway on his Yamaha sports motorbike when he crashed into the back of a Honda Jazz car being driven by schoolteacher, Catherine Foley (61) at around 11am as she was returning home from teaching a class in a Cork city school.


The inquest heard from Garda Orla Leahy and Sgt Gearóid Davis that they did not get any smell of alcohol or see any evidence that Ms Foley was under the influence of any intoxicant and given that she was very distressed and had suffered neck injuries, they did not breathalyse her at the scene.

Sgt Davis said that it was customary practice that blood samples would be taken for analysis for alcohol and other intoxicants when a person involved in a road traffic accident was admitted to hospital but the inquest heard that Ms Foley went home after treatment at the road side.

Forensic investigator

Today's inquest heard evidence from forensic crash investigator, Garda Dermot Carroll that it was impossible to say what speed Mr Holten was travelling at when he crashed into the back of Ms Foley's car but he was satisfied her car was fully in the fast lane when the collision happened.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Holten's solicitor Simon Kelly read out a statement in which the Holten family said they believed that the garda investigation into the crash was "deeply flawed" and that they were objecting to the inquest proceeding until the matter was "properly investigated".

The Cork City Coroner, Philip Comyn, noted their remarks and said he was going to proceed with the inquest, and today Sgt Fergus Twomey said that he took exception to the garda investigation being described as "flawed" by Mr Kelly.

“This was a full and comprehensive investigation and certainly wasn’t flawed in any aspect . . . the scene of the crash was forensically examined and measurements were taken and two lanes on either side of the dual carriageway were closed at the time to facilitate this.”

Sgt Twomey said that file was sent expeditiously to the DPP who directed on August 27th, 2014 that there be no charges and the file was subsequently reviewed and resubmitted to the DPP who again directed on December 14th, 2016 that there should be no prosecution in the case.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times