Friday 23 June 2017

Safety procedures 'up to standard' at rally where car ploughed into spectators, injuring four - Motorsport Ireland chief

General view of scene at Herbertstown Lane, near Athboy. Picture: Caroline Quinn
General view of scene at Herbertstown Lane, near Athboy. Picture: Caroline Quinn
The scene of the crash
Crash picture
John Kerrigan who was injured at a rally car race

Conor Feehan and Denise Calnan

The road safety procedures at a weekend rally event where four men were seriously injured were up to standard, according to the head of Motorsport Ireland Limited.

Mr Alex Sinclair spoke less than 24 hours after a rally car crashed into a field and injured four men during a race in Co Meath.

Speaking to RTE Radio One this morning, he said the marshaling and safety procedures were up to standard at the race.

"The rally when the incident occurred was actually on its last leg so to speak and the incident occurred on a corner, on a right hand bend where spectators had gathered in a field, including two competitors who had retired earlier from the event," Mr Sinclair said.

John Kerrigan who was injured at a rally car race
John Kerrigan who was injured at a rally car race

"The spectators were  in 35 metres from the road, so it is a little confusing at the moment as to how the car got that far into the field to make contact with these people.

"I can say this club has been running events for 51 years and they never had an serious incident before. we need to keep it in context - it happened, it was an accident, we certainly will carry out a full investigation.

The scene of the crash
The scene of the crash

"We need to check the car to see if there was a mechanical issue with the car, there were rain showers in the area so the surfaces need to be looked at in context of the accident itself.

"It's been less than 24 hours since the incident so I wouldn't arrive at a conclusion that the event was badly marshaled - I was there myself and I was satisfied. We wouldn't have let it go ahead otherwise."

"The cars could travel at anything from 30 to 150 kilometres an hour, rallying by its nature is a sport decided on speed over a particular part of closed road," Mr Sinclair continued.

"I'm not sure of the update on the injured. As I said before, it's less than 24 hours since the accident occurred and the hospital won't give us the information, they are just giving it to the relatives.

"The primary focus for us is the relatives and how we can help. The four are in a serious but not life threatening condition."

The incident happened on a lane near the road between Athboy and Kells just before 4pm yesterday.

A witness described the scene as 'bedlam'.

"We were standing in the field, quite far back from the bend and some more people were up on a hill when the seventh stage of the rally started," said witness Michael Cahill.

"About 10 to 15 cars went through without any problem, but then another car came down the lane and all four wheels left the road it seemed, so he couldn't take the bend.

"It crashed into the field and the car spun sideways and hit a group of people, including one of the drivers of a rally car that crashed earlier."

"It was bedlam," he said.

A local paramedic treated the injured until an ambulance arrived.

One spectator, Meath man John Kerrigan, was airlifted to Tallaght Hospital.

His father Tom said his son was "badly broken up" and added that "he has a broken pelvis, ankle, ribs and vertebrae".

John's mother Maureen said the doctors were going to "put him into a sleep for a few days".

"The doctors have said he's not in danger, but that he will be injured for a long time."

Another victim was rushed to Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.

The remaining two victims were brought to hospital in Drogheda.

Sources said the victims suffered bone fractures of differing degrees.

In a statement, the ALMC motor club confirmed an accident occurred on stage seven of the event it organised.

"As a result of the accident, two spectators and two fellow competitors were injured," it said.

"The initial medical reports indicate that the injuries, though serious, are not immediately life threatening," it concluded.

At the scene of the accident, tyre marks could be seen where the cars left the road.

Marks could also be seen in the field where the cars landed.

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