Sunday 17 December 2017

Coroner praises 'courage and dignity' of woman who lost family to actions of suicidal taxi driver

Elber Twomey's husband Con, her son Oisin and her unborn daughter were killed in the car crash

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A coroner paid tribute to the "courage and dignity" of an Irish woman whose entire family was wiped out by a suicidal taxi driver.

Elber Twomey (38) lost her husband, Con (38), her son Oisin (16 months) and her unborn baby daughter, Elber Marie, when Polish taxi driver, Marek Wojciechowski, deliberately drove into their car in Devon during a UK holiday two years ago.

The taxi driver, who police were searching for as a high-risk person after he had left a suicide note, was killed almost instantly in the July 6 2012 collision.

He had deliberately swerved across a busy dual-carriageway and collided head-on with the Twomey's VW Golf.

Oisin died a short time later in Derriford Hospital after surgeons were unable to revive him.

Doctors were similarly unable to save Elber's unborn baby, Elber Marie.

Cork coroner Dr Myra Cullinane paid tribute to the way Elber has now dedicated her life to a road safety campaign to ensure no other family endures a similar loss.

"It has been another difficult day today for Elber and the Twomey family. People have been greatly moved by the unspeakable tragedy that has befallen you...the loss of your beautiful family."

"I wish to place on record our admiration for the great dignity and courage you have shown...your selfless work in the area of suicide risk awareness."

"Work to help ensure that no family ever has to go through the dreadful experience you have had to go through," she said.

Dr Cullinane today (Friday) heard the inquest into the death of Con Twomey.

Mr Twomey's inquest was heard in Cork because, after sustaining critical injuries in the Devon collision, he was transferred back to Cork University Hospital (CUH) on August 8 2012 for treatment.

However, the former Meelin GAA star never regained consciousness after suffering severe brain, bowel, chest and bone injuries.

Mr Twomey died on May 3 2013 due to intestinal failure and severe brain injuries.

Tragically, Con and his wife and family were on their return journey to Ireland having enjoyed a brief UK holiday when the collision occurred.

Con had insisted that a UK holiday was safer and preferable to flying overseas to a sun holiday given that Elber was five months pregnant with their second child.

Mr Wojciechowski had left a suicide note and circled a busy dual-carriageway 12 times before ramming the Twomey’s car just seconds after a police constable had tried to pull him over.

The Twomey family had no chance of avoiding the taxi driver in his speeding Vauxhall Vectra.

Elber, a school teacher, has now dedicated her life to a road safety campaign aimed at ensuring no other family suffers her loss – and to remembering her beloved husband and children.

Next month she will stage a special 'remorial' event in her native Meelin in Newmarket, north Cork in tribute to Con, Oisin and Elber Marie.

Broadcaster Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh and musician Liam O’Connor have agreed to help Elber with the ‘remorial’ event from June 6-8.

“I loved being ‘Baba’ Oisín’s mom and I loved being Connie’s wife,” Elber said.

The young woman said the unique ‘remorial’ event is aimed at remembering her three loved ones who died that awful day.

“It is basically about remembering them…about ensuring that our beauties are never forgotten and will be remembered with the love that they so deserve,” she said.

The ‘remorial’ will involve a host of family-friendly events ranging from a fun run to table quiz and from a charity cycle to children’s novelty events.

Con, Oisin and Elber-Marie will also be the focus of a special memorial Mass.

Elber is also continuing her campaign for greater resources and training for gardai to help them handle similar high-risk situations.

The UK police are now changing their operating procedures following the Devon crash.

Elber has already met with Transport Minister Leo Varadkar over her call for road safety changes here.

Rank-and-file gardai as well as the Road Safety Authority (RSA) have agreed to examine Elber’s proposals for greater safety training and resources for gardai.

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