Monday 17 June 2019

'Warning signposts would've saved our mother', say family

Jennifer and Erika Price arrive at the inquest into the death of their mother Janet Price. Picture: Don MacMonagle
Jennifer and Erika Price arrive at the inquest into the death of their mother Janet Price. Picture: Don MacMonagle
Victim Janet Price was ‘not an experienced cyclist’
The Gap of Dunloe is known for its hairpin bends. Picture: Frank McGrath

Ralph Riegel

The daughters of a US tourist killed in a Gap of Dunloe cycling tragedy have warned that the mother of two would likely never have attempted the steep Co Kerry descent had proper warning signs been in place.

The revelation came as a coroner's inquest returned a verdict of accidental death for mother of two and grandmother Janet Price (69), who died last year when she came off a bicycle near a notorious bend on the Gap of Dunloe descent.

Coroner Aisling Quilter and the inquest jury issued a recommendation that adequate warning signs now be erected at the beauty spot to alert all road users to the steep descent.

The sharp bend where Mrs Price came off her bike and skidded underneath a four-wheel drive vehicle and trailer carrying lambs involved a sharp 140 degree bend - but there was no warning sign.

Last April, two US tourists, Normand Larose (62) and Joy Few (64), died in a separate and unrelated accident when the jaunting car they were travelling in plunged down a ravine in the Gap of Dunloe after a horse seemingly took fright and then lost its footing.

Mr Larose's inquest was opened and closed yesterday with evidence he died from blunt force trauma injuries to his skull and brain caused after a fall onto rocks from a pony and trap.

Mrs Price's daughter, Erika, accompanied to the Killarney inquest by her sister, Jennifer, said her mother was not an experienced cyclist and would likely never have attempted the descent had she known about its severity.

"I think if they had been warned that it was not for beginner cyclists they might not have gone," she said.

"It (better warning signs) sounds like something that should have happened a long time ago," she said.

"One of those guys (gardaí) testified that while he was on the road he saw somebody, an experienced cyclist, having trouble negotiating that bend with that quantity of traffic."

Erika welcomed the new safety recommendations. "That was our main goal here today - for greater safety on the road," she said.

With her sister, she confirmed she plans to visit the Gap of Dunloe and pay tribute to her mother.

Mrs Price was on a dream holiday in Ireland on May 30, 2017, with her husband, Don Theiler (75), and their friend, Roy Christiansen.

The American trio had rented bikes and were cycling from the Gap of Dunloe back to Killarney at around 3pm.

Toyota driver Donnachadh Tagney said his vehicle was at a crawl as it approached a steep bend carrying a trailer of lambs and he saw a cyclist travelling downhill very fast.

"I knew at the speed she was travelling she would not take the bend. (But) there was no impact with my vehicle."

Experts including Garda Ray Sweeney and Garda James O'Brien said it was impossible to say if Mrs Price struck the side of the trailer or came off her bike and skidded along the road underneath the trailer.

A bike could potentially reach a free-wheel downhill speed of 37kmh on the descent.

Despite desperate attempts to help Mrs Price she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster found Mrs Price died from blunt force trauma injuries to her chest.

Her husband, Mr Theiler, will return to Ireland in September to unveil a special bench in her memory in Kerry. He had written to Transport Minister Shane Ross and Kerry Co Council over road safety concerns.

Irish Independent

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