Courts

Wednesday 23 July 2014

'His quality of life is gone completely'

Court hears how former Mr Ireland Padraig Hearns has brain injuries after bin lorry crush

Tim Healy

Published 01/05/2014|18:08

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Former Mr Ireland PAdraig Hearns with Rosanna Davison
Former Mr Ireland PAdraig Hearns with Rosanna Davison

A FORMER "Mr Ireland" was left with a brain injury after the wheel of a bin lorry went over his head in Dublin's Temple Bar, the High Court heard.

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Padraig Hearns (39) was stooped over on the side of a street in the early hours of the morning bleeding after he had just been punched five or six times in the nose in a separate incident when the accident with the bin truck happened.

His counsel told the court Mr Hearns, who was the country's first male model, represented Ireland at the Mr World contest.

On the night of the accident, April 23,2007,  Mr Hearns, an airline steward with British Airways long haul flights, had been out celebrating becoming a godfather to his brother's baby.

After the accident, he had tyre marks on his back and suffered various fractures including a skull fracture, counsel said.

He was in an induced coma for over a week due to his injuries and spent over seven months in hospital.

The court heard he suffered significant cognitive impairment a result of the brain injury and also suffered double vision and had to have arm and eye operations.

His sister Lisa Walsh yesterday told Mr Justice Michael Peart her brother believes his life has been destroyed.

"Padraig before the accident loved life and was the life and soul of every party. He had a huge aura about him and was extremely well liked .

"Now his quality of life is gone completely. It is very heartbreaking," she said.

Mr Hearns, of Lower Hollywood Cross, Hollywood, Co Wicklow has sued Dublin City Council as a result of the accident with the bin lorry on Sycamore Street at around 2.45am.

It is contended that, under  Dublin City Council bye-laws, refuse collection should only take place between 6am and midnight unless otherwise authorised by the council.

The council denies all the claims.

"Had the council complied with the bye law, this accident could never have happened," senior counsel Michael Howard said in opening the case.

On that night, between 2am and 3am, thousands of people are converging on to the streets of Temple Bar, he said.

Counsel said the refuse truck driver was put in "an impossible position" to be collecting rubbish at the time when pedestrians were converging on to streets in Temple Bar as the nightclubs closed.

Sycamore street was 3.34 metres at its widest and with the wing mirrors the refuse truck would be about 3.1 metres wide.

"It is a tight space," he added.

Mr Howard said he fully accepted the refuse truck driver and his colleagues on the truck were very traumatised and upset by what happened.

In their statements afterwards they said they had started work at 2am.

The driver said he saw Mr Hearns stooped bleeding from the nose and a girl was giving him tissues.

He also saw him in the wing mirror and Mr Hearns was about half way down the length of the truck.

The driver, in the statement read to the court, said he heard a bang but he did not pay attention or take notice of it as people were always messing.

He said he drove a couple of feet at about 5mph and people shouted stop.

"I was afraid I was after hitting someone," the driver said in his statement. When he and the other workers got out of the truck they saw Mr Hearns lying near the back wheel.

The driver said he had no idea what happened and he thought Mr Hearns had hit his head off the side of the truck.

Mr Howard said the driver had been put in a difficult position by his employer but  if any effort had been made to check after hearing the bang, the accident would not have happened.

"If the truck never moved we would not be here, " counsel said.

The case continues.

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