Widow criticises long wait for Kerry cyclist’s inquest

Father-of-four Paud O’Leary died in 2012 when hit by vehicle which failed to stay at scene

Kerry cyclist Paud O’Leary who died after he was struck by a car in 2012.

Kerry cyclist Paud O’Leary who died after he was struck by a car in 2012.

 

A delay to an inquest into the death of a cyclist almost six years ago has been criticised by his widow, who said the proceedings had “dredged up” the events of July 1st, 2012.

Paud O’Leary of Leam, Gneeveguilla, a 42-year-old father-of-four, died when struck by a vehicle which failed to remain at the scene shortly after setting out on an early morning training session for the annual Ring of Kerry charity cycle.

The family had undergone “an awful lot of suffering”, and having to wait so long for finalisation had put them back “exactly” where they did not want to be, his widow Margaret O’Leary said after finishing her deposition at the Coroner’s Court in Killarney on Thursday afternoon.

“It is not a great system,” Ms O’Leary said when asked by her solicitor, Padraig O’Connell, whether she felt justice had been done.

After the inquest, the solicitor said the Law Reform Commission would have to look at the length of time involved in this case. The inquest had opened and then had to be adjourned to allow for criminal proceedings, he said.

Dangerous driving

It was now three years since a 23 -year-old man had been convicted of dangerous driving causing the death of Paud O’Leary, the solicitor said.

“Are Coroner’s Courts fit for purpose? Yes. Are Coroner’s Courts speedy? No,” Mr O’Connell said.

The inquest jury of six men at the Coroner’s Court returned a verdict of accidental death.

Coroner for south and east Kerry Aisling Quilter had advised the jury of the verdict of the Circuit Court and said she was obliged to tell them the driver of a vehicle had been convicted of dangerous driving causing death in April 2015.

“The verdict returned today cannot be inconsistent with the verdict of the Circuit Court,” Ms Quilter advised them.

At the outset, the coroner told the court, the purpose of an inquest was not to apportion blame. “There are no issues to be tried here today,” Ms Quilter said.

Mr O’Connell said there was some disappointment with the verdict of the inquest – the accidental death verdict should have been elongated to that of the Circuit Court to include “dangerous driving”, the solicitor said.

“The act of the convicted individual was utterly callous to leave him where he was without medical attention,” he said.

The inquest heard how Mr O’Leary had set out early that Sunday morning, six days before the Ring of Kerry charity cycle, on a two- to two-and-a-half hour loop via Killarney from his home in Gneeveguilla in east Kerry.

Paud O’Leary of Leam, Gneeveguilla (marked above, northeast of Killarney, Co Kerry), died when struck by a vehicle which failed to remain at the scene after setting out on an early morning training cycle. File photograph: Google Street View
Paud O’Leary of Leam, Gneeveguilla (marked above, northeast of Killarney, Co Kerry), died when struck by a vehicle which failed to remain at the scene after setting out on an early morning training cycle. File photograph: Google Street View

When he had not returned by 10am, his family began to get concerned.

Before noon, a search by his family got under way. His body was discovered at around 1.20pm by his brother-in-law, Gerry O’Callaghan.

Spotted debris

Mr O’Callaghan had spotted debris by the side of the road at Srahanfada. The roadside hedge of over 5ft was not damaged. In a dyke 3ft to 4ft deep Paud O’Leary was discovered, along with his blue bike.

In a deposition read to the inquest by Supt Flor Murphy, collision investigator James O’Brien said he formed the conclusion Mr O’Leary had been knocked off his bike by a vehicle which had crossed from its own side into Mr O’Leary, who had been cycling on the verge on the correct side.

The vehicle had failed to stop. From an examination of debris, the garda formed the opinion this was no standard car, and from an examination of paint particles at the scene, Garda O’Brien identified the vehicle as a large dark metallic grey Toyota Landcruiser, manufactured between 2003 and 2011.

In her autopsy, pathologist Dr Margot Bolster had found Mr O’Leary had died from brain and upper spinal cord injuries sustained in a road traffic incident.

Ms O’Leary told the inquest her husband had been “a very hardworking family man, mad about the kids”.

“We speak about him every day as if he is with us,” she said of herself and their four children, two girls and two young boys, Shannon, Antoinette, Ross and Paudie. The children were aged 14 to six at the time of the incident.

Devastating

Ms O’Leary said the death had been devastating for them, particularly at times of family celebration. For her there was always “a dampener” on such occasions because her husband was not with her, she told the inquest.

Coroner Aisling Quilter offered her condolences to the family and sympathised with them on having to relive the events of July 1st, 2012.

There had been “exemplary work” by gardaí in managing to identify the vehicle involved from a piece of bumper, the coroner said.

Mr O’Connell said on behalf of the family he wished to acknowledge the exemplary work of gardaí.