Sunday 16 December 2018

Man (84) drove wrong way on motorway before fatal collision

Scene of fatal crash on Dublin - Cork road near Watergrasshil, Co. Cork where Tom Joe O'Riordan was killed. The inquest into his death was held in Mallow Coroners Court.
Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Scene of fatal crash on Dublin - Cork road near Watergrasshil, Co. Cork where Tom Joe O'Riordan was killed. The inquest into his death was held in Mallow Coroners Court. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Ralph Riegel

An elderly man did a U-turn at a busy toll plaza, and drove 3km the wrong way on a motorway before being killed in a horrific head-on collision.

An inquest at Cork Coroner's Court heard that passing motorists desperately sounded their horns, flashed their lights and rang gardaí as Tom Joe O'Riordan (84) drove by.

He was heading north on the southbound carriageway of the M8 between Watergrasshill and Rathcormac on December 30, 2016.

However, as he approached Junction 16, Mr O'Riordan and the 23-year-old Isuzu Trooper he was driving collided head-on with a newspaper delivery van heading towards Cork.

The van driver, Conor McCarthy, said it was impossible to avoid a collision as the Izuzu came around a bend into oncoming traffic while on the wrong side of the motorway.

Mr McCarthy was driving behind a large oil lorry that obstructed his view and the collision occurred as he was passing the lorry.

"I was surprised and didn't have time to react," he said.

Mr McCarthy was badly injured and suffered fractures to his wrist, leg, pelvis and hip. He spent one month in hospital being treated.

Passing motorists immediately stopped to help the two stricken drivers.

Minutes earlier, toll plaza official Sean O'Donnell spotted the Izuzu performing a controlled U-turn and suddenly driving back against traffic. Mr O'Donnell immediately rang gardaí. However, the collision occurred before officers reached the scene.

Mr O'Riordan, a father of three, died at the scene before he could be rushed to Cork University Hospital.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster later found the pensioner had died from a severe and traumatic brain injury.

A neurological examination revealed traces of Alzheimer-type pathology in Mr O'Riordan's brain but the inquest was told this was not a diagnosis of the dementia condition.

Alzheimer-type pathology is relatively commonplace in very elderly people, but a diagnosis is entirely dependent on an assessment of cognitive functions.

Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy was told Mr O'Riordan had been assessed in 2011 for dementia after he had complained of memory issues. He was prescribed medication, but reported no further cognitive difficulties.

His wife, Myra, said while Mr O'Riordan was "quiet in himself", there were only "slight" memory issues.

She told the inquest her husband loved the outdoors and every day would visit his two sons, Martin and William, and help with farm work.

Mr O'Riordan was a talented hurler and won East Cork medals with Castlelyons in the 1950s and 60s. He regularly drove the Isuzu which belonged to one of his sons and which had been subjected to a full DOE inspection two months before.

The O'Riordan family told the inquest he never drove on the M8 motorway, always sticking to back roads around his Castlelyons home.

The inquest jury returned a narrative verdict that Mr O'Riordan died in a fatal accident after driving against the flow of traffic on the M8 motorway.

Irish Independent

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