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Retired teacher died after truck caused branch to fall

A RETIRED teacher was killed when a truck crashed into a tree, causing a heavy branch to fall on top of her, an inquest heard yesterday.

Maura Horgan (57), of Ashbourne Park, South Circular Road, Limerick, died on April 22 last year while she walked along O'Connell Avenue in the city.

She suffered traumatic head injuries, including multiple skull fractures, when a rigid refrigerated truck hit an overhanging branch off a tree as it attempted to negotiate its way around road works.

The inquest into Mrs Horgan's death heard the parks department of Limerick City Council had pruned trees along O'Connell Avenue before contractors for Bord Gais began working on gas mains.

The overhanging branches were situated along the kerbside, which was normally reserved for parking, but had been cleared to allow inbound traffic to travel towards the city while works were carried out on the opposite side of the road.

Experienced forensic and collision investigator Gda Michael Reddy examined the scene after the incident. He said the pruning that had been carried out "was not adequate to safeguard against high-sided vehicles".

Gda Reddy said he uncovered evidence of another piece of the branch breaking off from a previous accident prior to Mrs Horgan's death.

He said a "significant part in this tragedy" was the arrangement of the traffic cones and bollards in conjunction with the pruning of the trees.

The driver of the hired Renault truck, Patrick O'Connor from Parteen, Co Clare, said he did not recall striking the tree when contacted by gardai. He said he would have stopped the vehicle had he known he struck the branch.

A piece of trim had come off his vehicle when it struck the 3.65-metre-high branch.

The lorry had to drive close to the kerb because of the roadworks, but did not mount the foothpath. In order to clear the branch, the inquest heard that the vehicle would have needed to be half a metre from the kerb.

Midwife Pauline O'Connor had been driving behind the lorry and said she got out of her car when she saw the victim lying on the ground.

Ms O'Connor said the injured woman was bleeding from the nose and head before she was rushed to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.

The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence and recommended greater care be paid to the pruning of trees at road works sites in future.

Nobody from Limerick City Council spoke at the inquest.

Mrs Horgan had retired from St Enda's Secondary School in Limerick, where she had taught Irish, shortly before the accident. She had only been married six months when she died.

Her widower, Michael Horgan, who was at yesterday's inquest, said it had been "a very difficult day for her family".

"We would like to prevent any other family from having to go through this again, so we were glad that the jury made a recommendation," he added.

"We would really like to see this doesn't happen again because it is unbelievably painful for all involved."

Mr Horgan said his late wife's family were "absolutely gutted" from the entire experience.

Irish Independent