A CAR salesman trapped underwater in a car by a customer who drove off a pier yesterday told an inquest he only realised the man was "on a suicide mission" as they went over the side.
Richard Byrne (45) of Chanel Road, Artane, Dublin 5, drowned after he drove a red MINI Cooper he was taking for a test drive into the sea in Howth on July 13, 2010.
Jeremy Beshoff, the owner of Beshoff Motors in Howth, was a front-seat passenger in the car at the time and managed to escape from the submerged vehicle.
Recalling the terrifying episode at Dublin City Coroner's Court yesterday, Mr Beshoff said Mr Byrne let the clutch out and accelerated hard, driving the car over the side between two boats.
"This happened so quickly I only realised when we were going over the side that Mr Byrne was on a suicide mission."
As the car filled with water, Mr Beshoff managed to get out the door and swam to the surface where a man, Joseph Caulfield, pulled him out of the water.
"I was stunned and explained to Joe that the driver was still in the car and I felt it was deliberate and he tried to kill me," said Mr Beshoff, who did not know Mr Byrne. Mr Byrne pressed the central console locking the doors before driving off the pier but, when questioned by the coroner Dr Brian Farrell, Mr Beshoff said he didn't think it was deliberate.
The body of Mr Byrne, who had a history of depression and who had thoughts of suicide in the past, was later recovered by a diver.
A post-mortem found the father of two young children, who had separated from his wife a year earlier, died of drowning.
Dr Brian Farrell recorded a verdict of death by suicide.
"What isn't really explained is why Richard should have involved Mr Beshoff at all," he said. Some time after the incident, Mr Beshoff suggested that "maybe he wanted someone with him because he was too scared to do it on his own".