Saturday 15 June 2019

Four members of US family killed in crash on their way to funeral

Shocked truck driver had no chance to avoid car

Relatives of those who died in the accident arrive at the Brandon House Hotel in New Ross for the inquest yesterday. Photo: Patrick Browne
Relatives of those who died in the accident arrive at the Brandon House Hotel in New Ross for the inquest yesterday. Photo: Patrick Browne

Ralph Riegel

An American woman who lost her entire family in a horrific Wexford collision just days before Christmas said the truck driver involved remains in her daily prayers.

The revelation came as a New Ross coroner's inquest was told a hire car carrying four members of the Alexander family from Chicago pulled out directly in front of an articulated lorry in a bid to perform a U-turn on the busy N25 road - leaving the shocked truck driver with no chance to avoid a catastrophic impact.

Coroner Dr Sean Nixon was told the BMW 520 car, being driven by Douglas Alexander Jnr, was attempting the U-turn as it followed the car of an Irish relative after both had apparently missed a turn-off en route to a family funeral in Wexford.

Police officer Stephen Alexander (49), his parents Lily Ryan-Alexander and Douglas, both 75, and his brother Douglas Jnr (52), were all killed when their BMW saloon collided with a lorry on the N25 at Begern outside New Ross at 6.30pm on December 4, 2017.

The Alexanders, a proud Irish-American family based in Chicago, had travelled to Ireland to attend the funeral of Ms Ryan-Alexander's sister.

Debbie Alexander Cegerlak, who remained in the US with her two children, lost both her parents and her two brothers in the horrific accident.

The Alexander family, including Doug Snr, Lily, Doug Jnr and Stephen
The Alexander family, including Doug Snr, Lily, Doug Jnr and Stephen

All four died from catastrophic injuries as the Scania truck driven by Paul Caulfield was unable to avoid an impact when the BMW pulled out directly in front of it.

Garda Robert Carty said he initially thought only a truck had been involved with the car wedged into and under the front of the lorry.

The coroner and Alexander family paid tribute to the desperate efforts of the Wexford emergency services to help - and the courage shown by New Ross nurse Grace O'Sullivan, who came upon the accident.

The nurse said she got "an enormous fright" when she shone a light into the car to assist the occupants such were the appalling injuries involved.

New Ross priest Fr Roger O'Neill also attended to administer the Last Rites.

"The truck driver (Mr Caulfield) did not have the time or the distance to avoid a collision," Garda forensic investigator Tom Bulger said.

Mr Caulfield was with a passenger, Kevin Collins, en route to the UK.

"It pulled out foolishly (from the left) and did a U-turn. Paul said 'Jesus Christ' and then flashed his lights. The BMW 5 series did the same thing and pulled out in front of us. Paul had no time to react," Mr Collins said.

Solicitor Caroline McLaughlin said Debbie Alexander Cegerlak and Stephen Alexander's wife, Lynn, remain grateful to Wexford emergency services. "To (nurse) Grace O'Sullivan, it is a source of great comfort to the family to know the care afforded by you and the bravery you showed under such difficult circumstances and they are eternally grateful to you."

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death due to catastrophic injuries sustained in a road traffic collision.

Irish Independent

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