THE Garda Ombudsman is probing the death of a motorist who was being pursued by gardai after allegedly leaving a petrol station without paying for fuel.
Keith McMahon (27), from Crettyard in Co Laois, died after his car struck a lamp post on a stretch of road between Naas and Newbridge in Co Kildare.
It is understood that Mr McMahon, who was disqualified from driving and had a number of previous convictions, was being pursued by gardai after filling his 14-year-old car with fuel at a Laois petrol station before fleeing.
He died at around 3.20am yesterday after his car struck a lamp post while being pursued by a garda squad car.
He was rushed to Naas General Hospital where he died a short time later. A passenger travelling with him escaped with minor injuries.
Mr McMahon, who was known to gardai, was driving a 1999 Dublin-registered red Toyota Corolla, and is understood to have recently left prison.
The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) last night appealed for witnesses to the fatal crash, which happened at the Toghers roundabout in the Ladytown area between Naas and Newbridge.
The car was seen at the Kilminchy roundabout in Portlaoise, travelling north along the Dublin Road between 2.30am and 3am. It was then seen travelling through Naas town centre shortly before the fatal incident.
"The Garda Ombudsman is asking any witnesses, or indeed anyone with information that may be of assistance to its investigation, to contact it on 1890 600 800," the GSOC said.
Sources said his car was being driven at speed just prior to the fatal crash, and it is understood that gardai had been in pursuit for up to 10 minutes.
The road, the R445, remained closed for much of yesterday as investigators carried out an examination of the scene and diversions were put in place.
Gardai said the crash has been referred to the GSOC because gardai were involved in the incident.
The dead man's previous convictions were for drugs and motoring offences, and he was allegedly involved in a high-speed chase in June 2010 across three counties at speeds in excess of 150kmh.
Separately, gardai have appealed for witnesses after a 34-year-old mother of two died in a crash in Monaghan on Friday night.
Michelle McCabe, from Shantonagh, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, was travelling with her eight-year-old son, five-year-old daughter and 62-year-old mother when she was involved in a two-car crash on the N2 at Tullyvaragh Lower in Carrickmacross at 5pm.
It occurred near the Castleross Nursing Home where the young mother had been visiting her father. Her family escaped without serious injury.
Anyone with information is asked to contact gardai in Carrickmacross on 042-9690190, the Garda Confidential Line 1-800-666-111 or any garda station.
Their deaths bring to 16 the number of people killed on the roads so far this year.