No escape was possible when lorry caused Slane pile-up, inquiry told

 

THE FRIGHTENING experiences of parents and grandparents caught up in a nine-vehicle pile-up after a heavy-goods vehicle (HGV) went out of control as it headed down a hill in Slane village were dramatically recalled yesterday.

At the oral hearing into a proposed bypass of the village, planning inspector Michael Walsh heard how Slane grandmother Anne Walsh had just dropped her five-year-old grandson to school and was waiting in traffic on one of the steep descents into the village when she looked in her rear-view mirror.

“I saw a large truck approaching from the top of the hill at high speed. I concluded in that split second that the driver had lost control and that it would be impossible to stop the truck.” She said there was “no escape” and “I closed my eyes, gripped the steering wheel tightly and waited for the worst.”

There were loud bangs and the sound of “crunching metal on metal as my car was heavily pounded and shunted forward.” Her car had been rear-ended by another car, which had been hit by a truck, which had in turn been struck by the HGV. Smashed cars, trucks and debris littered the street, which is part of the N2 road between Dublin and Derry.

No one was seriously injured or killed in the pile-up on March 23rd, 2009; most had just dropped children to Slane national school, which is at the top of the hill on the northern end of the village.

The schoolchildren’s parents’ association estimates nearly 10,000 vehicles pass the school every day, of which 1,000 are trucks.

“It is almost like putting a school on the edge of the M50 and expecting nothing to go wrong,” said spokeswoman Emma McCann.

The hearing was told by local mother Maria Meagher that when she was learning to drive she was taught how to escape an out-of-control truck as it is the constant danger in the village. “When our older children go out for a walk, we worry constantly until they come home again. Other parents worry about strangers in cars; in Slane we worry about lorries.”

Twenty-two people have died on the short stretch of road that runs from one side of the village to the other; the last was two-year-old David Garvey, who died when his mother’s car was run over by a truck in February 2001.

Michele Power of the Bypass Slane Campaign said providing the new road “is about protecting real lives and real people. It is a matter of life and death, something that all too often seems to have been forgotten by both government and other authorities over recent decades.”

Former attorney general John Rogers began his submission against the bypass.

He lives some 400m from the megalithic tomb at Knowth and said his concern over the route of the Slane bypass is that “it intrudes on the World Heritage Site,” which includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

He said the M1 motorway is 10.8km to the east of Slane and the M3 is 15km to the west and “let us consider if Slane has already been bypassed?” Mr Rogers said: “I know it is to take your life in your hands to cross the Slane bridge.”