Sunday 20 October 2019

Two teenage friends who died after car lost control 'travelling at twice local speed limit'

Mourners at the funeral of Darragh Killeen at Inch Church, Co Clare, on Saturday. The 19-year-old and his cousin Oisín Cahill (18) died following a crash in the early hours of Easter Sunday
Mourners at the funeral of Darragh Killeen at Inch Church, Co Clare, on Saturday. The 19-year-old and his cousin Oisín Cahill (18) died following a crash in the early hours of Easter Sunday

Gordon Deegan

Two Co Clare teenage friends and cousins lost their lives after the car in which they were travelling in lost control as it was going at more than twice the local speed limit.

At the Co Clare Coroner’s Court in Ennis on Monday, expert witness, Garda James O’Brien said that he has calculated that the gold Toyota Avensis in which Darragh Killeen (19) and Oisín Cahill (18) were travelling in was going at a speed of 128kmph (80mph) as it entered a bend on a local road when driver, Mr Killeen lost control of the car.

Forensic Collision Investigator, Garda O’Brien pointed out that the speed limit for the road at Woodstock 3km outside Ennis is 50kmph (30mph).

The main witness at the inquest, Garda O’Brien said that the calculated speed that the car was travelling at "was far in exceed of the speed limit” for the road.

Days after the double tragedy last April, Oisín’s father, John told mourners at his son’s funeral mass that his son will have died in vain if anyone attending the mass gets hurt or are injured on the country’s roads.

Mr Cahill said "if there is any good to come out of this, please, please, please be safe on our roads".

At the inquest on Monday, Garda O’Brien said that the car hitting a hump on the road may have contributed to the loss of control and the entire incident would have taken just two seconds between the loss of control and the car impacting a pillar at the entrance to a housing estate opposite the Woodstock House Hotel and golf course.

Advanced paramedic with the National Ambulance Service, Linda O’Rourke described the scene in the aftermath of the crash as ‘horrendous” and Garda Cáit Ní Chuálain wept at the inquest as she recalled arriving at the scene and administering first aid to front seat passenger, Oisín Cahill.

She said that Oisín was unresponsive and had no pulse. Mr Cahill was later pronounced dead at the scene by a local doctor.

Garda O’Brien said that the 01 car was coming from the Ennis direction and ‘slewed its way back” across from the left hand side of the road to the other side before making impact with the pillar.

Poignantly, friend of the two, Thomas Barry said that Darragh and Oisín were staying with him at his parents’ home that night after a night out in Ennis and the plan was for all of them “to get up in the morning and make pancakes for breakfast”.

Mr Barry - who had played for Kilmaley the previous day in the u-21 County hurling Final - said that the two - who were also hurlers with Kilmaley - were still there at his home at around 3.30am on Easter Sunday when he feel asleep.

Mr Enda Hickey was a back seat passenger in the crash which occurred at 4.08am and suffered head and leg injuries.

In evidence on Monday, Mr Hickey said: “I don’t remember the accident or the hours leading up to it."

A number of Garda witnesses and two emergency responders gave evidence that none of the three in the car were wearing seatbelts.

However, this was partly contradicted by the first person on the scene, local resident, William O’Doherty who said that he was positive that he saw a black belt across Mr Killeen’s chest and shoulder.

Garda O’Brien said that as a result of the impact with the pillar, the car was bent into a 'C' shape.

Consultant Pathologist, Dr Gabor Laskai said that alcohol blood tests show that Darragh Killeen was under “the very mild influence” of alcohol and had less alcohol in his system than passenger, Óisín Cahill

The blood alcohol test for Darragh Killeen was 63mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood and Oisín Cahill’s level was 75mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

The drink driving limit for experienced drivers at the time was 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood and Oisín’s mother, Angela told the inquest that her GP told her that the alcohol levels in her son’s system was that “of a very sociable drink” and Dr Laskai agreed.

The jury in the case delivered a verdict of accidental death in each case and Isobel O’Dea paid tribute to the Killeen family for making four organ donations from Darragh’s remains.

She said that the family has given “the wonderful gift to so many people of organ donation and you have helped save other people’s lives and helped make other people’s lives better”.

Ms O’Dea said that she wished to extend her sympathy to the families for "the unimaginable trauma" that have been enduring.

Insp Paul Slattery told the family there is no dictionary definition for a parent who loses a child unlike a wife who loses a husband or a husband who loses a wife.

He said: “And a friend told me why this is - it just should’t happen.”

On behalf of the Killeen family, Ronan Connolly thanked all of the emergency services for dealing with “this terribly tragic situation”.

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