Sat nav was not to blame for crash which killed two US tourists near Blarney

Garda told inquest the sun may have blinded driver of their hire car to oncoming truck

Peggy Sue Adams (left) who was killed in the crash, pictured with her husband Jack

Peggy Sue Adams (left) who was killed in the crash, pictured with her husband Jack

 

A sat nav was not to blame for a fatal crash in Cork which killed two American tourists in September 2017, an inquest has heard.

James Baker (62) and Peggy Sue Adams (58) were killed when a hire car they were travelling in crossed the main Cork-Limerick road at a local junction near Blarney in front of a truck which had no way of avoiding them, their inquest was told on Tuesday.

A garda told the hearing he could offer no explanation as to why their driver opted to turn off at the junction on the road, veering into the path of the truck.

He said a test on their sat nav, which had been set for Blarney Castle, suggested it was not a factor. However he noticed when he was at the scene that the sun was high in the sky to the south and he suggested it may have blinded the driver of the hire car to the oncoming truck.

Following the crash, it was widely reported that investigating gardaí were examining whether the tourists may have been using a sat-nav device which directed them to cross the busy road to get to Blarney.

Forensic Collision Investigator Garda Dermot Carroll told the inquest that he retraced the last 500 metres of their journey on the N20 near the Waterloo Junction, using the last inputted destination on their Tom Tom sat nav, Blarney Castle.

The sat-nav when he tested it later that day directed him to continue straight on towards Cork city and take a later turn for Blarney using an underpass rather than cross the northbound lane at the Waterloo Junction as happened in the fatal collision on September 11th 2017.

Jim Baker, who was killed in a car crash with his wife Debbie who was seriously injured.
Jim Baker, who was killed in a car crash with his wife Debbie who was seriously injured.

The inquest had earlier heard a statement from survivor and driver Jack Adams (68) who told gardaí he had no recollection of hearing any instructions from either Mr Baker or Ms Adams who were providing him with directions or from the sat nav, telling him to turn right for Blarney at the Waterloo Junction.

No warning

He told how they were driving from Limerick to Cork on the N20 heading for Blarney Castle in their hired Skoda Octavia when, without warning, they were hit by a truck coming from Cork and both Mr Baker, who was in the front seat passenger seat, and Ms Adams, who was behind him, were fatally injured.

Fellow survivor, Deborah Baker who was sitting behind Mr Adams said she didn’t remember seeing the truck and she didn’t remember hearing any screech of brakes before the collision which claimed the life of her husband from Columbia City, Indiana and Ms Adams from Delphos, Ohio.

Truck driver, Stephen Murphy (36) told the inquest he was driving from Cork to Mallow in his articulated lorry when a car pulled into the turn lane coming against him and then suddenly veered across in front of him. “There was no way whatsoever I could have avoided this accident,” he said.

The inquest also heard evidence from sisters, Kim (33) and Kerri Coughlan (36) who were stopped in their Peugeot at the mouth of the Waterloo junction, waiting to exit onto the N20 when they were hit by the Skoda after it was hit by the truck and launched into the air, coming to land on the bonnet of their Peugeot.

PSV Inspector, John White examined all three vehicles after the crash and concluded all were in roadworthy condition. He found no evidence to suggest the crash was caused by a mechanical fault.

Garda Carroll said that his colleague Garda Omar Fitzelle had examined Mr Murphy’s tachograph and using Garda Fitzelle’s findings, he had concluded the truck was travelling at 89km/h when he saw the car pull in front of him and he braked, slowing down to 60km/h at the point of impact within two seconds.

He said the Skoda was hit virtually broadside by the truck almost directly opposite the centre of the Waterloo turnoff and while he couldn’t say if the Skoda was stationary or moving slowly when it was hit there was no way of avoiding the crash once the Skoda made the turn given the speed of the lorry.

High sun

Garda Carroll said he could offer no explanation as to why Mr Adams opted to turn off at the Waterloo junction and the test on the sat nav suggested it was not a factor. However he noticed when he was there that the sun was high in the sky to the south and he suggested it may have blinded him to the oncoming truck.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said both Mr Baker and Ms Adams died from polytrauma due to injuries caused by a road traffic collision and such was their injuries that death would have been very rapid.

The jury of six men returned verdicts of accidental death in the case of both deceased and the coroner for South Cork, Frank O’Connell extended his sympathies to both the Baker and Adams family including Mr Baker’s widow, Deborah and daughters, Brenda and Diane who attended the hearing.

Mr O’Connell had earlier told the jury that a file including forensic collision investigation report had been prepared on the crash for the DPP but the DPP had directed there be no prosecution in the case.