Three young people were killed when their cars were involved in a head-on collision on a country road in Co Donegal, just minutes after they had been seen chatting to each other.
Theresa Robinson (20), Kaylem Ó Murachaidh (19) and Steven McCafferty (19) all lost their lives in the collision at Corravady, outside Drumkeen, on July 27th, 2016.
An inquest into the deaths was held on Friday at Letterkenny Courthouse by coroner Dr Denis McCauley. The court heard that all three knew each other, and this was not an exercise to apportion blame to anyone.
The three people killed were among four who were involved in the two-car collision which took place on the a dark country road. Another man, Sean Ward, suffered serious injuries in the crash.
His solicitor, Mr Kieran O’Gorman, told the court that his client, of Hilltop, Stranorlar, was ill, and could not attend the inquests.
Witness Hugh Sweeney told the court that he had been delivering silage bales and he came across the collision in the townland of Stranlongford.
He said he saw a man kneeling on the road and recognised him as Sean Ward, whom he knew. When he went to investigate further he saw two cars: a maroon Toyota Avensis and a blue Peugeot 306. He said he saw a man crumpled behind the steering wheel of one car, while another person, understood to be Ms Robinson, was partially out of another car.
In a statement, his son Adrian Sweeney told how he had come across all four in his yard earlier, where they were chatting. He knew Sean Ward and Mr Ward had told him that he was going to buy the Peugeot. He was later telephoned by his father and told there was a bad smash up at Coravaddy.
Garda Michael Kilcoyne was the first officer on the scene, and he described the scene of the incident.
The area was cordoned off and local priest Fr Eamonn Kelly had arrived to say prayers and read the Last Rites. A doctor from the local NowDoc service had arrived and pronounced three people dead, while Mr Ward was taken to hospital.
Garda Damien Mulkearn told the court that the fronts of both cars had “massive frontal damage”.
However, the court was told that both cars were in serviceable pre-accident condition when examined.
Garda Sgt Hugh McCann told the court that he examined the scene which was governed by an 80km/h speed limit. However, he said it was impossible to tell what exact speed both cars had been travelling at.
He said that the Avensis was still on the road but the Peugeot car had been pushed back up to eight metres off the road into the verge.
Solicitor for Stephen McCafferty, Frank Dorrian, said it was impossible to determine what speed either car had been travelling at, and that there should be no further conjecture by Sgt McCann as this only led to suspicion.
A lengthy legal debate then ensued between Mr Dorrian, the coroner and solicitor for Mr Ward, Kieran O’Gorman.
Pathologist Dr Katrina Dillon told the court that in her opinion all three people died from multiple injuries as a result of being involved in a road traffic collision.
Coroner Dr McCauley said he agreed, and recorded a finding of death by misadventure. He sympathised with the families of all three victims, as did Garda Inspector Siobhan Mollhan on behalf of An Garda Síochána.
“These three people were just having a normal day and probably had plans for the rest of their lives. Circumstances just dictated that a terrible accident would occur, and we can only imagine the heartbreak the families feel,” added Dr McCauley.