A 26-year-old nurse died after her car veered into the path of an oncoming SUV as she drove home on the morning after a 12 hour night shift, an inquest in Co Kerry has heard.
The ambulance crew who attended the scene on the N21 at Ahaneboy, Castleisland shortly after the incident knew her from her work at University Hospital Kerry in Tralee, the inquest was told.
Kerrie Browne was driving her Volkswagen Golf home to Brosna at about 8.10am on October 2nd, 2019 when her car crossed the white line and drifted into the path of an oncoming Toyota Land Cruiser driven by John Power.
Tralee Coroner's Court heard Mr Power, a self-employed engineer from Abbeyfeale, took evasive action, including slowing to a crawl and driving into a crash barrier to try to avoid Ms Browne's car.
The Toyota was pushed back more than three metres from the point of impact. Witnessess saw the Volkswagen lift one metre off the ground and end up turned back towards Castleisland. The position of the speedometer on the Volkswagen was at 120km/h after impact. Coroner Helen Lucey heard the driver of another vehicle had also swerved to avoid the Volkswagen. A woman and her daughter in that car saw Ms Browne with her eyes closed and her head tilted to the left.
Garda witnesses told the inquest both vehicles involved in the collision were in good order and road conditions were dry.
No alcohol or drugs were involved, the inquest heard. Mr Power underwent a breath test after the crash, which was negative.
Extensive efforts were made to resuscitate Ms Browne at the scene but she was pronounced dead at 9.06am.
Death was due to trauma due to a road traffic collision, a postmortem found.
A garda who examined the scene of the collision said there was no sign of braking by the Volkswagen. He said research had been done into sleep-related accidents on roads and this incident fitted nearly all the criteria,
Noting that the evidence was clear that Ms Browne had died as a result of a collision, Ms Lucey remarked on “the silence” in the court room throughout the inquest.
“This was a terrible tragedy. This was a 26-year-old girl at the start of her career,” Ms Lucey said.
Mr Power would also have suffered trauma after being involved in the incident, the coroner said.
She commended the witnesses and those helping at the scene, including a nurse who came upon the crash and held Ms Browne’s hand, as well as the ambulance and fire crews and doctor who attended the scene.
“Everything that was possible was done but unfortunately, Kerrie did not survive the accident,” the coroner said.
The evidence from the scene investigator was of classic symptoms of a crash caused by tiredness, she remarked.
“Everyone should take note not to drive when one is tired,” Ms Lucey said, adding that she was obliged to point this out in the hope future crashsed could be prevented.
A solicitor on behalf of Mr Power and his wife offered their deepest sympathies to the Browne family, as did the coroner, gardaí and the pathologist.
Afterwards, Ms Browne’s older sister Andrea said she wished to reinforce the coroner’s advice.
She said her sister had come off a 12-hour shift. Driving after a night shift was a particular concern among nurses, said Andrea Brown, who is a qualified paediatric nurse
She also thanked Parc Road Safety Group and particularly founder Susan Gray for their support.