Unfinished road had no speed signs, inquest told


A HEALTH and safety consultant told an inquest yesterday into the death of a 22-year-old Co Mayo woman in a road crash, that the unfinished road on which she was killed had all the appearance of a completed road.

Niall O’Donovan, a former civil engineer with Atkins Ireland: Engineering and Design Consultancy, gave evidence on the third day of an inquest into the death of Ashling Gallagher from Bunnacurry, Achill Island.

Ms Gallagher, who had just graduated from college, died on December 22nd, 2004 after her Volkswagen Caddy van swerved on to the wrong side of the road and into the oncoming path of a cement mixer truck.

The crash occurred on an unfinished stretch of roadway under construction in the townland of Murrivaugh, Mulranny.

Mr O’Donovan, who was employed by Atkins from 1995 to 2005, told coroner John O’Dwyer and a jury yesterday that there were three indications that would leave road users with the impression that they were driving on a completed road.

These included the fact that the surface was a smooth DBM course (dense bitumen macadam road surface); the presence of permanent road markings; and the absence of roadworks signs.

Furthermore, the absence of an advisory speed limit would indicate that the general speed limit of 60 miles per hour was applicable.

Mr O’Donovan also gave evidence that at the time of the crash the majority of temporary road-works signs which had been erected on September 23rd, 2004 had been removed between October 4th, 2004 and December 22nd.

He added there were no temporary roadworks signs in place advising road users that the road works were incomplete; that the road surface was temporary and that the road surface had a reduced skid resistance and could be slippery.

Cross-examined by Aongus Ó Brolcháin, counsel (with John Jordan and Ward McEllin) for Mayo County Council, Mr O’Donovan said he would disagree that putting the lines on the road would make the road safer.

During the course of yesterday’s proceedings it emerged that civil court proceedings are pending in the matter.

It also emerged that the Health and Safety Authority had sent a file on the matter to the DPP but the DPP had decided there should not be prosecutions arising from the tragedy. On Tuesday, Peter Faherty, a retired civil engineer, told the inquest that cones and signage should have been in place on the road where Ms Gallagher was killed.

Yesterday afternoon the jury was sent out as the coroner and legal representatives for the Gallagher family, Mayo County Council and the National Roads Authority engaged in debate over a legal issue.

The coroner said he would consider the issue overnight and give his decision this morning.

The inquest is to resume today at 10am.