Five trapped in collapsed lift shouted for help for 15 minutes, court told

Former garda felt her leg break after ‘very violent drop to the floor’

Andrew Meehan and his wife, Patricia O’ Leary from Meath, pictured leaving the Four Courts on Wednesday after Ms O’Leary gave evidence in their personal injuries action. Photograph: Collins Courts

Andrew Meehan and his wife, Patricia O’ Leary from Meath, pictured leaving the Four Courts on Wednesday after Ms O’Leary gave evidence in their personal injuries action. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Five injured people stuck in a collapsed lift which had plummeted three floors to a hotel basement shouted for help for 15 minutes before the doors were prised open, the High Court has been told.

Patricia O’Leary said she felt her leg breaking on impact and she had to be cut from the lift wreckage. “It was a very violent drop to the floor,” she told Mr Justice Michael Hanna.

The former garda sergeant and her husband, Andrew Meehan, are among five people from the same extended family who have sued over the accident which happened as they tried to return to their rooms in the Killarney Plaza Hotel after a wedding ceremony at another venue on July 9th, 2011.

The mother of two, who had to retire from An Garda Síochána in 2016 on medical grounds when she was aged 37, was giving evidence on the second day of the action.

“The lift tried to dock and couldn’t at the floor. It shuddered and there was a loud bang. The lift dropped slightly and stopped for a split second. Then it just dropped to the concrete basement floor,” she said.

“We were dazed and confused. The walls of the lift came in around us. I could see Andrew and Kevin were badly injured. It was very traumatic, she added.”

When she reached for the emergency button and phone, the panel came down on top of her, she said.

Her brother-in-law, Paul Meehan, helped pull the doors open once two porters found them and held the lift walls off her until the emergency services arrived.

Emergency equipment had to be brought into the basement on a luggage trolley, she said

Ms O’Leary (42), of Co Meath and her husband, Garda Sergeant Andrew Meehan, his brothers Paul and Kevin Meehan, and Kevin’s wife Jennie Wong have sued the hotel owners, Shawcove Ltd with registered offices at Castleisland, Co Kerry as well as companies involved in installing and maintaining the lifts, Ellickson Engineering Ltd, in receivership, and Kilell Ltd, both of Kilmurry, Waterford; Otis Ltd, Naas Road Business Park, Dublin and Otis Elevator Ireland Ltd, of the same address; and a lift components manufacturer Daldoss Elevetronic Spa of Valsugana, Italy.

Ms O’Leary’s case is the first of the five being heard.

It is claimed there was a failure to ensure the intended pathway from the carpark was safe and free from hazard and a failure too to install a proper functioning lift from the car park to the hotel.

The court heard liability was conceded in the case in 2019 and the cases are before the court for assessment of damages only.

Opening the case, Richard Kean SC, with Barney Quirke SC, for the five, said no apology had been offered for the incident which caused such catastrophic injuries.

Ms O’Leary’s forced retirement from the Garda because of pain has had a catastrophic effect on her and her family and her injuries have been life changing, he said.

Counsel said she has suffered additional losses, including past and future loss of earnings, and lost opportunity of promotion.

He told the court their doctors will say Ms O’Leary has complex regional pain syndrome and suffers from post-traumatic stress and has flashbacks.

Mr Kean said engineering company Ellickson Engineering Ltd, now in receivership, was fined €750,000 in 2017 after it was found guilty at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court of a single breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act over the installation of the hotel lift in and around April 2004.

Counsels said Ms O’Leary suffered a fractured leg along with ankle and knee and chest injuries. She now has to use a spinal cord stimulator and has pain every day, he said.

The case continues on Thursday before Mr Justice Michael Hanna.