A man who suffered catastrophic injuries when he fell more than 500ft when descending a mountain in MacGillycuddy’s Reeks in Co Kerry has sued in the High Court.
Barry Griffin (43), an engineering manager with Dublin Air Traffic Control, was on a work team building exercise in the mountain range when the accident happened in 2016.
It is claimed there were repeated impacts on rocks as he fell, that he suffered life threatening injuries, was rendered tetraplegic and now has to use a wheelchair. His action is against his employer, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), and claims that he understood the team building trek to be compulsory.
He has also sued a man who organises team building exercises, Pat Falvey of Irish and Worldwide Adventures Ltd of Beaufort, Killarney. All the claims are denied and full defences have been filed.
Edward Walsh SC, instructed by Stephen MacKenzie solicitors, for Mr Griffin, told the court the case is of critical importance to his client. Mr Griffin and as many as 65 witnesses will give evidence including 40 witnesses on the issue of liability. Mr Justice Tony O’Connor will decide whether to hear the liability issue first when the case returns before the High Court on Friday.
Mr Griffin, of Carlton Court, Swords, Co Dublin, claims he had in May 2013 participated in a trip to Mount Brandon which was organised by his employer and he believed to be compulsory. In 2014 and in May 2015 he participated in trips to Carrauntoohil, which he also believed to be compulsory.
He claims that on April 25th, 2016 he was informed by the IAA that a fourth team building trip had been organised, which he again understood to be compulsory in the course of his job. He alleged that the exact details of the exercise were not disclosed.
Mr Griffin claims he was part of a large group from the IAA that participated in the team building exercise on May 19th, 2016. He said they were required to climb to the summit of Carrauntoohil and then ascend Cnoc na Toinne.
He claims, after being directed and required to undertake a demanding mountaineering trek lasting several hours over challenging terrain, the group were instructed to descend the northwest aspect of the northeastern spur of Cnoc na Toinne, which he alleged was via a narrow, unkempt and exposed route about 600m above sea level.
Unable to stop
He claims he fell about 574ft down the face of the mountain onto his back and developed very significant gravitational momentum and was unable to control or stop his fall.
Mr Griffin claims the IAA organised the exercise when it ought to have known it was dangerous. He claims failure to have regard for the level of expertise required to successfully or safely trek Carrauntoohil and Cnoc na Toinne. He has further claimed he was allowed to form an impression or to believe he was under an obligation to attend or participate in the exercise.
He has claimed against Mr Falvey and his company that an alleged unwarranted or disproportionate amount of responsibility was placed on him and the group to have regard for their own safety. He claims there was failure to have regard to the level of difficulty associated with trekking on the mountain range.