Only a miracle saved six in 180kmh smash, says coroner
IT was a miracle that six people weren't killed when an airborne car ploughed through the gable end of a rural house, a coroner said yesterday.
Two high-performance cars were speeding at up to 180kmh when one clipped the other along a narrow road between Cashel and Rosegreen in Co Tipperary on July 12, 2008.
The inquest into the death of Raymond Cunningham (24), from Tullamaine, Fethard, Co Tipperary, was heard yesterday at Clonmel courthouse.
Mr Cunningham was travelling alone in a red Audi TT while the other car involved in the crash, a black Audi A5 being driven by Joe O'Leary (38), became airborne and crashed into the gable end of a house, pinning a young boy underneath it.
The two drivers -- who didn't know each other -- came across each other at a roundabout outside Cashel and, after O'Leary's son said "that's a class car" to his father, about the other Audi, Mr O'Leary followed it.
The two cars went at speeds of up to 180kmh, heading in the Clonmel direction, but when O'Leary attempted to overtake about two miles from Cashel, before returning to his correct side of the road, his car clipped the other and they both went out of control.
O'Leary's car became airborne and crashed into the side of a house before trapping a boy, Jack Costello (9). Jack was at a family gathering at his grandmother's home at Price's Lot
The boy was saved when his father, John Costello, used a forklift truck to remove the black Audi. He has since made a partial recovery, the inquest heard.
His grandmother's house was deemed "unsafe" and had to be demolished.
Two teenage boys -- O'Leary's son Raymie and friend David McGeer -- were passengers in O'Leary's black Audi and were injured in the crash.
David, who was 13 at the time, said he met his friend Raymie in Cashel on the night of Saturday, July 12, and they were then being driven home by O'Leary when the two cars met on the roundabout.
After Raymie said "that's a class car" to his father, O'Leary "said nothing but looked at Raymie," and then drove behind the other car, at high speed.
O'Leary was sentenced to two years' imprisonment last year at Clonmel Circuit Court after admitting dangerous driving causing death.
He also received two 18-month sentences for two counts of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm, to run concurrently.
"The speeds were phenomenal in this instance," forensic collision investigator Sgt John Moore told the inquest.
Coroner Paul Morris described the driving by both O'Leary and the late Mr Cunningham as "pure madness" on the night in question.
"Nearly half a dozen of them could have been killed," he said.
Mr Cunningham, who was travelling alone in the red Audi TT, was thrown from the car after it was clipped by Mr O'Leary's Audi and spun out of control, landing on its side. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Pathologist Dr Robert Tait concluded after a post-mortem examination that death was due to "multiple injuries", including extensive bleeding into the brain and the chest cavity, consistent with a road accident.
The jury in the inquest returned a verdict of accidental death, consistent with the medical evidence.
Solicitor for the Cunningham family, Peter O'Reilly, said it was "pure happenstance" that the two drivers of two similar cars were on the same stretch of road together on the night of July 12, 2008, as they didn't know each other.
"It makes it even more extraordinary," the coroner said upon hearing that. "I have to register how appalled myself and the jury are at the speeds both parties were going on the evening in question, and the potential for total havoc. It's a miracle that more people weren't more seriously injured or fatally injured."