Crash survivor tells inquest of pulling man from car after it veered into river

Coroner warns on dangers of drink driving after two men die in West Cork crash

Coroner Frank O’Connell paid tribute to survivor, Fergal O’Sullivan (23) who, saved the life of his fellow passenger,

Coroner Frank O’Connell paid tribute to survivor, Fergal O’Sullivan (23) who, saved the life of his fellow passenger,

 

A coroner has commended the heroism of a young man who saved the life of a fellow passenger after a crash in which two other men died when their car veered off the road and ended up in a river

Coroner for West Cork Frank O’Connell also warned on the dangers of drink driving as and said there were lessons to be learned from the fatal crash near Glengarriff on August 3rd 2020 which killed Tadhg Murphy (19) and passenger, Michael Bowen (40) .

“I would hope that lessons would be learned from this terrible tragedy - there is no avoiding the fact that these deaths are associated with intoxication,” said Mr O’Connell after hearing evidence that both men had been found to have alcohol and minute traces of cocaine in their systems.

Mr O’Connell also paid tribute to survivor, Fergal O’Sullivan (23) who, saved the life of his fellow passenger, Luke Harrington (18) by pulling him from the upturned car as it lay submerged in the river just off the N71 Kenmare to Glengarriff Road.

Mr O’Sullivan told the inquest how he, Mr Murphy and others had been socialising at Dowlings Caravan Park in Kenmare on the night of August 2nd. They then went with about 20 friends to a picnic area at The Pooleen where they sat around a campfire drinking until about 3.45am.

He said he was sitting in the back of Mr Murphy’s VW Jetta with Mr Bowen while Mr Harrington was in the front passenger seat as Mr Murphy drove them back to Glengarriff. However Mr Murphy lost control of the car rounding a left hand bend in the road.

“I recall some sort of bounce in the car, maybe the wheel clipped a rock on the left hand side of the road and climbed it, causing the car to flip across the road. After the car flipped across the road, it hit off something before going down a drop, the drop seemed to go on forever,” he said.

The inquest heard the car plunged down almost 4 metres before coming to rest on its roof in a river. Mr O’Sullivan realised he was upside down , suspended by his seatbelt as he drifted in and out of consciousness before he discovered water flooding into the car.

“Tadhg was conscious at the time and was screaming, saying he was sorry- that’s all he was saying that he was sorry . He was saying that we were dead, that we were all going to die and he was screaming that he was sorry,” said Mr O’Sullivan who managed to free himself from his seatbelt.

The car was sloping forward and water had covered the bonnet before it started coming into the car and rising at the back , said Mr O’Sullivan. He told how he started shouting for help and panicking as he tried to kick and shoulder open the rear passenger doors in the darkness.

He tried to get into a small air space in the car when he noticed Mr Harrington floating in the car and he jumped back in fright as he thought both Mr Harrington and Mr Murphy were dead.

He managed to force open one of the doors and he turned around towards the submerged car and reached back and he felt a body so he grabbed it .

“I pulled this person out with me - I didn’t know who it was at the time as it was dark. I tried to pull the body up on to a rock near the driver’s door but I kept slipping back . I stopped then and checked to see if he was breathing and to see if his stomach was moving but he wasn’t breathing.”

Mr O’Sullivan managed to get the man on to the rock where he began mouth to mouth resuscitation and after about five minutes, the man, who turned out to Mr Harrington, spurted out water from his mouth .

“Luke was responding to me then and was talking to me. He was crying and he was saying ‘How did you save me?’,” said Mr O’Sullivan who went back to the car to look for the others but had to abandon the search when Mr Harrington started slipping off the rock.

The inquest heard how the two men managed to make it back up to the road and walked into Glengarriff where they raised the alarm .

Mr Murphy from Glengarriff and Mr Bowen from Ahakista were later pronounced dead at the scene . Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster said Mr Murphy had 218 mls of alcohol per 100mls in his blood while Mr Bowen was found to have 137 mls and both had a minute amount of cocaine in their system.

Dr Bolster said both men had died from acute cardio-respiratory failure due to drowning following a road traffic collision. She said the amount of alcohol in their systems would have impaired their ability to save themselves in the water.

Coroner, Mr O’Connell returned verdicts of accidental death in both cases and extended his sympathies to both the Murphy and Bowen families on their loss before commending Mr O’Sullivan “for his heroic efforts on the night for which Mr Harrington undoubtedly owes him his life.”