Cork coroner urges automatic reviews of all fatal crash sites

Comments come after engineer finds road infrastructure a factor in death of man (92)

A coroner has recommended that all local authorities carry out a review of their road infrastructure following any fatal road traffic collision, after hearing how a pedestrian crossing did not meet modern safety standards when a man was fatally injured while using it.

Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn said it had been the case in the past that the National Roads Authority carried out a review of any section of road infrastructure under its authority if it had been the scene of a fatal road traffic collision.

He believed local authorities should carry out similar reviews of road infrastructure under their control after hearing a pedestrian crossing in Ballintemple in Cork city was not up to proper safety standards when Dan O'Connor (92) was fatally injured.

Mr O'Connor from Monaville, Dundanion, Blackrock in Cork was crossing the pedestrian crossing in Ballintemple village just after 2pm on February 6th, 2018, when he was struck by a taxi exiting from the adjoining Park Avenue on to the Blackrock Road.

Taxi driver, Bertie Byrnes (64) told the inquest he had pulled out from Park Avenue after being waved out by a motorist who had stopped on Blackrock Road and he turned right to go back to Cork city, but never saw Mr O'Connor on the pedestrian crossing to his right.

“I stopped by the main junction for a while because the traffic was going up and coming down. The lady across the road waved at me to come out so I looked right, left and right again, I didn’t see the man at all because the sun was so strong as I pulled out,” he said.

Scraping noise

The jury saw footage of Mr Byrnes’ taxi striking Mr O’Connor, who walked with the aid of a stick, but was more than halfway across the pedestrian crossing, which was showing red lights to traffic moving east and west along the Blackrock Road, when he was hit.

Mr Byrnes said that he only realised he had hit someone when he heard a scraping noise at the rear of his car, so he reversed slightly and got out to discover that Mr O’Connor was lying in front of the car and he found his stick behind his car.

Witnesses Deirdre Leahy and Paula Cashell, who had both stopped on the Blackrock Road to allow Mr O'Connor cross the road, confirmed that Mr O'Connor was making his way across the pedestrian crossing, which was showing red for cars, when he was hit by the taxi.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Mr O'Connor, who died at Cork University Hospital on February 9th, died from a brain bleed and head injuries due to a fall as a pedestrian, but there was nothing in his injuries to suggest the fall resulted from being hit by a car.

Garda Jeremy Hurley, who investigated the collision, confirmed that a low-lying sun over single-storey cottages on the Blackrock Road was shining directly into the exit from Park Avenue at the time Mr Byrnes was exiting to turn on to Blackrock Road.

Too close

Engineer Michael Byrne said the pedestrian crossing on Blackrock Road was far too close to the exit from Park Avenue and should have been moved at least 20m away, while it appeared road markings on the crossing had not been restored when the road was resurfaced.

He said that only the southern or far traffic light on Blackrock Road was visible to traffic exiting from Park Avenue as both lights were shrouded to prevent glare, and traffic emerging could not see that traffic light until it had virtually exited from the Park Avenue junction.

Aside from moving the pedestrian crossing 20m away from the Park Avenue exit, the other option would be to introduce a synchronised lights system that would also govern cars exiting from Park Avenue as there were currently no lights controlling the exit, he said.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death before recommending the introduction of synchronised lights to control traffic exiting from Park Avenue as well as calling on Cork City Council to ensure all road markings are restored after resurfacing works on junctions.

Mr Comyn then added his recommendation that all local authorities review all pieces of road infrastructure following fatal collisions before extending his sympathies to Mr O’Connor’s family on the death of their father.

Mr Byrnes, of Elderwood Park, Boreenmanna Road, Cork, was earlier this year acquitted of careless driving causing the death of Mr O'Connor by a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.