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Tuesday 17 September 2019

A tragedy with more questions than answers

A year on from the death of Brian Regan in a road accident, his family are still trying to unravel exactly what happened

Brian’s father James Regan remembers his 26-year-old son in Loughrea, Galway. Photo: Brian Farrell
Brian’s father James Regan remembers his 26-year-old son in Loughrea, Galway. Photo: Brian Farrell
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The call that every family dreads came shortly before 6am on a Sunday last December. James Regan junior was first to be told the chilling news on the phone. He was at his brother Brian's side within three minutes.

James held his hand as the gardai looked on, waiting for a doctor and ambulance to arrive. He was still alive but his body was shutting down.  "I was there holding his hand, saying 'hold on, hold on'. But I knew in my heart and soul, there was a bit missing from his chin, and you just knew. His shoe was missing. You just knew he wasn't going to make it," said James. 

The ambulance didn't come until 6.20am and the doctor until 6.48am, more than an hour after the accident happened. Brian's numbed family gathered at the scene.

"I had hope," said his mother Mary. "I felt his tummy, he was warm. I felt his hand. I rubbed his face. I saw there was one eye open and one eye closed." Then she heard "someone, somewhere" say that he was gone. "I closed his eye," she said.

Brian (26) had been hit by a car at 5.30am as he was making his way home from a Christmas party in Loughrea, Galway.

He had been out since 7pm the previous night and had a large amount of alcohol in his system. His family were later told that he was lying on the road when he was hit.

The car involved in the incident was driven by a novice driver who, coincidentally, worked in the same licensed premises where Brian had been drinking and was also on his way home.

Brian's death was a tragic accident for which no one was culpable.

The Director of Public Prosecutions examined the evidence and did not press charges against any of the parties involved.

Nevertheless, the Regan family say they are dissatisfied with the sensitivity of the garda investigation and hope that other families won't have to endure the suffering that they did.

Brian was buried on Christmas Eve. In the days after his death, the Regans learnt about updates on the investigation not from gardai but from a relative of the novice driver. When they complained about the leak, they said they were told it would not happen again. But it did.

The family had many questions, such as why Brian's shoe was found so far away from his body. They wondered if he had been hit by another car and that was why he ended up lying on the road in the first place.

The day after he was killed, Brian's mother and brother found bits of car parts on the road and handed them to gardai. That caused them to wonder whether the accident scene had been properly secured. The family took it upon themselves to locate CCTV footage from the morning of the accident, and alerted gardai to the relevant pictures.

The Regan family accept that Brian had a lot of alcohol in his system but they also raise questions about the enforcement of licensing laws.

Eventually, the family became so frustrated that, with the help of the road safety organisation Parc, they sought and secured a meeting with the Garda Commissioner at Phoenix Park headquarters in Dublin.

Brian's father James said Noirin O'Sullivan gave them two hours of her time and promised to look into their concerns. Their concerns were passed on to the local Western Division to be reviewed. The Regan family are now considering going to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

As the annual Christmas road safety campaign kicks off, the Regans are among the many families facing the coming festive season under the burden of an unbearable tragedy.

Sunday Independent

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