A LETHAL concoction of alcohol and speeding claimed the lives of three brothers and a friend in a horrific car smash that was likened to the devastation seen in an aeroplane crash, an inquest has heard.
Witnesses told how the car "exploded" on impact after it collided with a 30-seater bus 2km outside Tullamore, Co Offaly, on August 10 last year.
Five children were left without a father when Tallaght natives Darren (27), David (24) and 17-year-old Ryan Doyle were killed along with their friend Lee Bryan (24), who was driving the Honda Civic.
All four men, three of whom were fathers, lived in the same estate in Portarlington, Co Laois.
Offaly County Coroner Dr Brian Mahon said their lives were "simply snuffed out" in an incident of madness on that "fateful day".
"A lethal combination of alcohol and speed led these young fellas to their deaths," he said, as he recalled that it was a buoyant time for Ireland with our boxers excelling at the London Olympics.
After listening along with the distraught families to evidence of the traumatic injuries suffered, he likened it to the devastation witnessed at the scene of a plane crash.
Pathologist Dr Margaret Lynch, of the Midland Regional Hospital, agreed that aside from a plane disaster, injuries of the degree witnessed would rarely be seen.
She stated that they were "without a doubt" the most extensive injuries she had seen in her career.
Toxicology reports showed all the men had alcohol in their blood.
Dr Lynch said driver Mr Bryan's reading of 314mgs was at a level associated with people going into a stupor.
The friends had been playing football from around 3.30pm that afternoon in a park in Tullamore.
Sinead Fletcher, who had been visiting the park with them that day, said she did not see any of them drink alcohol before they left the park at around 5.10pm. She said they had been "great fun" and full of energy.
Bus driver John Keyes (54), who had two passengers on board, recalled doing "everything" he could to avoid the oncoming car after he saw it swerving in his direction before hitting the front of his vehicle.
Frank O'Rourke, who was travelling behind the bus, told how he saw a car veer three times towards the centre and correct itself, before it collided and "exploded immediately".
Moments earlier, Gerry Griffin told how he had been overtaken by the car as he drove from Tullamore to Portarlington.
"The speed they were doing was too fast," he recalled.
Crash-scene investigator Gda Michael Nolan said the collision was caused by the car crossing the road into the path of the oncoming Mercedes bus.
The car had its handbrake fully up at the time, but there were no marks from the locked wheels on the road surface.
Gda Nolan said he believed the car was rotating at the time. He said "excessive speed" was a factor, as the car was split and the engine scattered around the scene.
Gda Liam Daly said it was difficult to say what position the passengers had been in, but he had "no doubt" Mr Bryan had been driving.
Dr Mahon said there were lessons to be learned from every accident. The inquest found all four had died from injuries consistent with a traffic collision.
The coroner said his sympathies went out to the families.
Darren and David Doyle both had two children, while Mr Bryan had one child.