Driver 'off his head' drunk when he hit family car and died with pals in fireball
The young driver of a car in which three men died when it exploded after colliding with a vehicle carrying a family of six to a Christmas festival was more than four times over the alcohol limit.
A Waterford coroner's inquest heard the driver of an 11-year-old Volkswagen Golf, Eamon Dixon (22), had a blood alcohol concentration of 221mg as well as traces of cocaine and other drugs in his system at the time of the crash.
Mr Dixon's friends, Kenneth O'Sullivan (39) and Michael Tobin (38), died alongside Mr Dixon when the Golf crossed onto the wrong side of the road on the N72 outside Dungarvan, Co Waterford, on December 4, 2016.
The Golf exploded in a fireball after the impact and all three men were burned beyond recognition and were identified by DNA.
The inquest heard that Mr Dixon, from Abbeyside, Dungarvan, was "off his head" that day on drink, according to Mr Dixon's father Darren Foley who spoke to him earlier that morning.
Seconds before the horrific collision, the Golf overtook another car at speed and glanced off it, tearing off its wing mirror.
Another man, Patrick Murray, said he accepted a lift in the car in Dungarvan and was terrified when he realised the occupants were drunk.
The car drove on the wrong side of the road past Dungarvan Garda Station and Mr Murray insisted on getting out.
"I was scared for my own safety," he said.
The Military Road, used as a Dungarvan bypass, is noted for restricted visibility.
Waterford Coroner Dr Eoin Maughan heard that the car being driven by Mr Dixon ploughed into a Citroen C4 carrying Mary Bermingham, her four children aged from seven to 15 years, and her partner, Gary Fenton. The Cork family were taking the children to see Santa Claus in Waterford.
The doors on the Citroen were jammed shut by the damage of the impact and the mother and her children were pleading for rescue.
Mr Fenton, who was driving, was unconscious. Ms Bermingham said she saw another vehicle pass the scene and fail to stop.
"I remember thinking: 'Who would pass the scene of an accident and not stop to help?'" she said.
Ms Bermingham said she became concerned when onlookers were unable to get her family out of the wrecked car and she could smell the burning Volkswagen.
Her children were screaming from the back seat. "Are you going to leave us here to die?" she pleaded at the scene.
The distraught mother also repeatedly shouted: "Get my babies, get my babies."
All six were successfully removed from the wrecked vehicle and transferred to Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Waterford.
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said all three men died from multiple catastrophic injuries consistent with being involved in a road traffic collision at speed.
Mr Tobin was from Abbeyside in Dungarvan, while Mr O'Sullivan was from Seminary Road in Cork.
The Waterford inquest jury returned verdicts of accidental death for all three men.