Tuesday 17 October 2017

Cavan rally: Pregnant woman killed seeking better view

Caroline Cleary
Joe Lane
Gardai at the scene of the tragedy
Tragic sports photographer Joe Lane (in blue) with rally driver Colin McRae

CAROLINE Cleary, one of two people tragically killed at a motorsports rally yesterday, was 14 weeks pregnant with her first child.

The 29-year-old from Co Wexford had just moved to a better spot to watch her partner speed by at the sunsoaked event, when another car struck her.

Amid horrifying scenes, a Ford Escort rally car – believed to have gone out of control after going over a bump – ploughed into 30 spectators, killing two and injuring five.

Motorsports photographer Joe Lane (50) from Kilcogan, Co Galway, also died when the Escort crashed into a fence near Bailieborough, Co Cavan, where spectators were standing.

The five who were injured were taken to hospital. The accident happened at the Cavan Stages of the rally, which was making its first appearance in the county.

The extent of the injuries suffered by the spectators, driver and co-driver was unclear last night.

More than 100 cars were competing in the event, which attracted thousands of spectators.

Both the gardai and Motorsport Ireland, which governs the sport, have begun investigations. As part of its investigation, Motorsport Ireland will be examining whether the spectators were standing in a designated area.

Those areas which are unsafe for spectators are clearly marked out with signs.

Caroline Cleary's boyfriend, Sean Hayde, from west Cork, a rally car navigator, was the co-driver of another car and scheduled to start 30 seconds after the car involved in the accident.

It is understood Ms Cleary had been trying to get a good position on the side of the road to watch him as he went by when the tragedy struck.

Eyewitness Mathew McMahon saw the accident and described the scene in the aftermath. "I heard people screaming, 'red flag, red flag, stop the stage'. Then all hell broke loose, basically. There were people crying; people white as ghosts. It was clear something serious had happened."

Control

Another witness said it looked as though part of the car had broken as it landed, causing driver Michael Colon to lose control.

Caroline Cleary and Joe Lane were standing with a number of other spectators and it is understood the group had been asked to move back from the road a number of times.

Mr Lane was killed after being struck on the side of the head. However, it was unclear yesterday if he was clipped by the car or by debris.

It is understood Ms Cleary was struck by the passenger side of the car.

Paramedics were on the scene within seconds but could not revive either of them.

Mr Hayde was visibly shaken and said that he did not wish to comment.

He was being comforted by friends.

A number of spectators and race organisers returned to the Baile Hotel, which was set up as a HQ for the event, after the tragedy. Many were in tears.

The road and car were being forensically examined by collision investigators last night.

And garda investigators are set to focus on the conditions of the car and the stewarding that was involved in the rally itself.

Jim Reilly, event organiser with the County Cavan Motor Club, extended his condolences to the families of the family of those that had died.

Mr Reilly said that all safety precautions had been put in place, but admitted that motor racing was a dangerous sport.

"We have marshals who are fully trained and knew exactly what to do.

"They were down there almost immediately," he said.

Irish Independent

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