Cyclist who died after fall was not wearing helmet, court told


A BRAZILIAN medical student died when he fell off his bike and hit the rear bumper of a taxi while cycling home after a night out, an inquest has heard.

Leonardo Souza da Silva (21), from Marilia in Brazil but living in Lower Gardiner Street in Dublin’s city centre, had come to Ireland to improve his English. He died at St James’s Hospital on June 22nd last year after sustaining severe head injuries. Mr da Silva had hired a Dublin Bike and was not wearing a helmet.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard yesterday that he had been drinking with friends at Dicey Reilly’s Bar on Harcourt Street. Pedro Germeno, in his deposition to the court, described Mr da Silva as being “not drunk but not sober” when they left the bar after 11pm. They hired Dublin Bikes at the station on St Stephen’s Green with the intention of cycling home.

However, on Westmoreland Street Mr da Silva was cycling between cars when he appeared to lose control of the bike. Wet conditions had made the road slippery, the court heard.

He was seen tumbling over the handlebars, landing on the road and banging his head into the back of a stationary taxi. Another taxi driver said he saw Mr da Silva hit his head off the rear bumper of the stationary taxi and then attempt to sit up before falling back down and hitting his head off the ground.

It became clear in hospital that the incident had left Mr da Silva brain dead and his mother gave permission over the telephone to withdraw life support. The autopsy found that Mr da Silva had suffered severe head injuries causing bleeding around and inside the brain.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death in which alcohol and road conditions may have played a role. Coroner Dr Brian Farrell will write to Dublin City Council recommending they examine the possibility of making helmets available for hire with the Dublin Bikes Scheme.

He will also recommend that safety information be prominently displayed at bike stations.

Dr Mike McKillen of the Dublin Cycling Campaign said after the hearing that what happened to Mr da Silva was “one of the few cases” where a helmet would have saved a cyclist’s life.

Most cyclists die from injuries to their lower bodies after being “crushed under a bus or truck”, he said. A helmet rental scheme was “not feasible and practical” with public bicycles, he added, citing hygiene problems.

Helmets send the wrong signals to drivers because the more cyclists are dressed in protective armour the closer motorists will drive to them, he said.

The bike scheme had helped safety as it has a “critical mass” effect, he said.

Barbara O’Connell of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland said she would like to see the helmet rental scheme introduced or see people bringing their own helmets for use on Dublin Bikes.

A helmet “not only reduces the risk of brain injury but the severity”, said Ms O’Connell.

So far this year seven cyclists have been killed on the roads, compared to nine in the whole of 2010, seven in 2009 and 10 in 2008.

The council said it gives “full consideration” to all recommendations made by the coroner’s court.