Driver in backpacker death crash may have had seizure
AUSTRALIAN police have told the family of a young Irishman killed in a freak accident the driver of the car that hit him may have suffered a seizure immediately beforehand.
Donal Bolton (23) was killed when the car ploughed into him as he sat on a park bench in a pedestrian-only square in the centre of Cairns in northern Queensland.
His girlfriend of five years, Justine Walsh (22), who was sitting alongside him, escaped with minor injuries, and was later able to break the tragic news in the couple's home county of Offaly in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
"It was just a freak accident," Donal's father Eugene told the Irish Independent yesterday.
"It seems that the poor man collapsed behind the wheel of the car and lost control, and the car came over a wall. Donal was sitting on the park bench.
"We've been told that the driver was just out of hospital, that he had had some sort of illness previously."
He said his son, the youngest of three children, had been in Australia for almost a year with Ms Walsh, but that the couple had only recently travelled north.
"He only just arrived in Cairns the day before," Mr Bolton said. "They were doing a bit of travelling, but they were coming home at the end of the month."
Donal Bolton was also due to turn 24 at the end of the month. The qualified engineer from Ballinagar, outside Tullamore, had spent the past six months working on a stud farm near Melbourne.
It is understood the couple spent Monday night in a backpackers' hostel in Cairns, and were planning to tour around parts of northern Australia in the coming weeks.
However, they were relaxing on the park bench at City Place in Cairns on Tuesday when the out-of-control car ploughed into the busy square.
Witnesses told the 'Cairns Post' newspaper that the 33-year-old local driver was "frothing at the mouth with his eyes rolling back into his head" when the car came to a stop after hitting the bench.
Mr Bolton was trapped under the car, while Ms Walsh suffered leg injuries.
About 100 people looked on as paramedics worked to try to revive Mr Bolton while he was trapped, and fire crews placed wooden blocks under the car to lift it off him.
The young man, who was a talented hurler with the Raheen club, died at the scene.
A distraught Ms Walsh was interviewed by police at her hospital bedside yesterday.
"His girlfriend was taken to hospital and she was in shock more than anything I believe," Offaly priest Monsignor Tom Conan said yesterday.
"She made contact with her own family. They live in Durrow and they told the Bolton family."
Ms Walsh was treated for a leg injury at the scene and was last night in a stable condition at Cairns Base Hospital.
The driver of the car, who damaged his back in the crash, was also said to be in a stable condition. Cairns police have appealed for witnesses to the incident. The Irish Embassy in Canberra is assisting the two families involved.