Monday 19 August 2019

Driver 'could not avoid' crash that killed US tourists, inquest hears

The scene of the fatal collision on the N20 Cork-Mallow road. Photo: John Delea
The scene of the fatal collision on the N20 Cork-Mallow road. Photo: John Delea

Olivia Kelleher

A lorry driver "stood no chance" of avoiding a crash which claimed the lives of two American tourists whose rental car made a right turn in front of him as they made their way to Blarney Castle in Co Cork, an inquest has heard.

Widow Deborah Baker hugged driver of the truck Stephen Murphy at the conclusion of the inquest in Blarney yesterday.

A Garda crash forensic expert indicated that Mr Murphy could not have avoided the crash which resulted in the deaths of James (Jim) Baker (62) from Columbia City in Indiana and Peggy Sue Bockey Adams (59) from Delphos, Ohio. Eyewitnesses also gave evidence to this effect.

Ms Baker, her husband Jim and friends Ms Adams and her husband Jack Adams travelled to Ireland in September 2017 for a dream holiday.

Mr Adams was Mr Baker's first cousin.

The couples rented a 161 Skoda Octavia with a sat-nav device in Dublin Airport. They travelled around for a few nights before deciding to go to Blarney Castle from Limerick on September 11, 2017.

Mr Adams was driving southbound on the N20, heading towards the Waterloo junction at around 11am. He turned right and went straight into the path of a lorry coming from the other direction.

His wife was in the rear seat behind him with Ms Baker. Mr Baker was in the front passenger seat.

Mr Adams was not at the inquest. In a statement, he said he could not remember receiving instructions from a sat-nav device. He stated that his car was hit from the left-hand side "without warning".

Ms Baker said in her statement that she couldn't recall any details of the accident.

"I just feel bad for everyone in this situation," she said.

The inquest heard from Garda forensic collision expert Dermot Carroll, who stated that truck driver Mr Murphy had just 1.6 seconds from when be braked to the point of impact with the tourists' car. He was driving well within the speed limit and had no chance to avoid an impact.

Coroner Frank O'Connell said in spite of initial fears that Mr Adams may have been following sat-nav instructions to make the right turn at the junction for Blarney Castle, gardaí said the device did not direct them to take that route during a test-run a few hours after the collision.

However, Garda Carroll said that he could not say definitively that it did not happen on any other occasion. Sat-nav software has since been changed to exclude that right turn for motorists.

Mr O'Connell heard that it was a sunny day and that the jury was entitled to conclude that the driver did not see the truck.

Irish Independent

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