Patrol car driver claims speed not a factor

A jury has recommended regular tyre checks on Garda vehicles and a review of the legal minimum tread depths of all emergency …

A jury has recommended regular tyre checks on Garda vehicles and a review of the legal minimum tread depths of all emergency vehicles, at an inquest into the death of an elderly woman struck by a Garda car in Clonskeagh, Dublin.

Yesterday, the two women gardaí in the car gave evidence denying they were travelling at excessive speed as suggested by some witnesses and a Garda inquiry. The jury also recommended a review of Garda call-out procedures and additional signage at the bend of Clonskeagh Road, where the accident occurred last May.

A mix-up of addresses led to the dispatch of the patrol car to Beech Hill Avenue in Clonskeagh instead of Beechwood Avenue in Ranelagh when the crash took place. The court heard evidence on Monday that one of the tyres of the Ford Mondeo patrol car was well-below the manufacturer's recommended tread depth and this could have been a factor in the accident.

The minimum legal tyre tread depth is 1.6mm. The tread depth of one the car's tyres measured 1.6mm while the other three were slightly above this.

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The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure at Dublin City Coroner's Court.

Garda Niamh Seberry and front-seat passenger Garda Lisa Healy from Donnybrook station both insisted the patrol car had not been speeding.

Garda Seberry said she did not agree with Sgt Colm Finn from the forensic reconstruction unit that the patrol car must have been travelling in excess of 70kp/h (43.5mph) for the accident to take place. "It was 30mph or fractionally above. I've driven the bend before and that's the speed I would have entered the bend," she told the court.

"I slowed down going into the bend. Halfway around the bend I felt the car go over a bump in the road. I felt the back of the car move slightly and I tried to correct the steering . . . I felt I had control until the steering locked to the right."

Garda Healy said the car was going at a "normal, safe speed" when it entered the bend on Clonskeagh Road and was travelling no faster than 35mph. "I felt completely comfortable with the manner Garda Seberry was driving," she added.

Mary Seavers (74), Farmhill Park, Goatstown, Dublin, died in Beaumont Hospital on June 15th, 2005, three weeks after she was hit by the car while she waited at a bus stop in Clonskeagh.

Sgt Andrew Keegan was the garda investigating the accident. He said it was the responsibility of the garda driver to check the condition of the patrol car each day. He told the court Garda Seberry and Garda Healy were not interviewed until three weeks after the incident, when Ms Seavers had died. Where the accident occurred was a "bad bend" and six accidents had occurred there since 1992, he said.

Once a month, full inspections were carried out on all Garda vehicles, he added. Garda Seberry told the court she had checked the car's tyres the day of the accident and they appeared to be fine.

Two independent engineers told the court on Monday the Garda car's tyres were unroadworthy. John Nash, of JE Nash consultant engineers, said they were legal but "substandard in the modern sense". Colm O'Connell described the condition of the car's tyres as "an accident waiting to happen".