Three men killed in road crash identified using DNA, inquest hears

Coroner told driver Eamon Dixon had high level of alcohol in system before Waterford crash

Three men killed in a crash Co Waterford had to be identified using DNA after their car went on fire, a coroner’s court has heard.

Eamon Dixon, the 22-year-old driver of a Volkswagen Golf which collided with a Citroen Picasso in which a family was travelling on a Christmas outing, was found to have a high level of alcohol and traces of drugs in his system.

The deputy state pathologist conclude that his ability to drive would have been “seriously impaired”.

Mr Dixon of Abbeyside, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, was killed instantly in the crash. His passengers Kenneth O'Sullivan (39) of Blackpool, Cork, and Michael Tobin (38) from Abbeyside in Dungarvan, also died in the crash at Kildangan, Military Road, Dungarvan on December 4th, 2016. The car belonged to Mr O'Sullivan.

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Mary Bermingham, who was the front seat passenger in the other car involved in the crash, said their car was travelling towards Kilmeaden, where she and her partner Gary Fenton and her four children were due to visit the Santa train.

She told the inquest Mr Fenton was driving, when she heard a scream “Gary,” from the back and saw a small car in front of them on the wrong side of the road. “The car was completely on our side of the road, driving towards us. In a split second it had crashed into us.”

She suffered two broken legs, a fractured arm, fractured ribs and internal bleeding but had made a full recovery, as had her partner and children, she told the coroner.

Inspector Larry Sheahan said he arrived on the scene shortly after 9.45am and put a major emergency plan into effect. When the fire in the Volkswagen was put out, he could see it was extensively burnt and "the charred remains of three bodies" were inside. "All of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition."

The following day, DNA swabs were taken from family members of the three men, allowing for identification to be confirmed.

Deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said all three men suffered multiple traumatic injuries, incompatible with life, and consistent with "a high-speed vehicular impact".

Eamon Dixon had 221mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood as well as a traces of cocaine and other drugs. “Such intoxication of alcohol and drugs would seriously impair the ability to drive,” Dr Curtis said.

Mr Dixon’s father, Barry Foley, said he got a call from his son at about 9am on the morning of the crash. “He sounded off his head. He wanted me to go on the beer for the day, and I said no.”

The jury returned verdicts of accidental death in relation to all three victims, with death being the result of multiple traumatic injuries.

Afterwards, the coroner Dr Eoin Maughan said nobody should ever drink and drive. "There are a lot of people out there who do use drugs and drive and they can be just as dangerous," he added.