Thursday 21 March 2019

Trio's death blamed on tiredness

Padraig Breathnach, the only survivor of the crash in July, 2006 which killed three of his friends
Padraig Breathnach, the only survivor of the crash in July, 2006 which killed three of his friends
Mary Frewen died in the accident outside Portlaoise

Dara deFaoite

Friends returning from music festival had not slept, inquest told

TWO heartbroken families gathered yesterday to hear how their loved ones had died in a horrific car crash after staying up all night at the Oxegen music festival.

A coroner's court heard how Tom Frewen (22), his sister Mary Frewen (19) and Paul Geary (21) died when the car they were travelling in collided with a lorry shortly after leaving the festival on July 10 last year.

The families heard how Mr Geary's Toyota Corolla had veered into path of an oncoming lorry after he had fallen asleep at the wheel, leaving just one person alive in the car.

Coroner Eugene O'Connor explained, after hearing evidence, how the accident had most likely been due to the tiredness of the driver and warned this type of accident could happen to anyone.

The fourth occupant of the car, Padraig Breathnach, gave evidence at the inquest into the death of his friends at County Hall, Portlaoise, yesterday. Mr Breathnach told how Mr Frewen, Mr Geary and himself had been drinking and had not slept on the last night of the Oxegen festival at Punchestown racecourse.

He said they had set out from the Co Kildare venue on the morning after the festival and how he had fallen asleep in the back of the car only to be woken by a woman shouting though a smashed windscreen.

"Mary was asleep in the front seat, her brother Tom was asleep behind her and I was behind the driver, Paul," said Mr Breathnach. "I woke up hearing a woman's voice shocking me. She said 'It's okay the ambulance is coming'. The front windscreen was smashed."

Mr Breathnach told the court he had not noticed anything wrong with Mr Geary's driving that day and said he felt quite safe in the car.

The truck driver, Edward Ward, gave evidence of how he spotted the car veer on to his side of the road seconds before the collision.

"I recall flashing my lights as this green Toyota Corolla as it had come into my lane," said Mr Ward.

"I immediately thought he was making a go for the hard shoulder on my side, but then he straightened up on the wrong side of the road," said Mr Ward.

The accident occurred on a straight stretch of road shortly after 2.30pm at Clonad, near Portlaoise, Co Laois, on July 10, 2006.

A post-mortem carried out by Dr Declan Gilsenan showed Tom and Mary Frewen from Curraghagalla, near Mitchelstown, Co Cork, had died instantly. Mr Geary, from Marshalstown also in Co Cork, had lost consciousness instantly and died some hours later. He was found to have had an alcohol count in his blood below the permitted level.

Giving his verdict of "death caused by injuries sustained in a road traffic accident" on all three young people, Mr O'Connor said the accident was most likely a result of tiredness on the part of all four occupants.

"All too often in road accidents involving young people, speed and wreckless driving is involved," he said.

"There is no evidence here that this was the case here. It is most unfortunate that these young people may have been over-tired on the day.

"This accident could have happened to anyone and perhaps it should serve as a lesson to us that tiredness affects us all," he said.

A technical examination of both vehicles showed that there was no evidence of any pre-accident defects with either the car or the lorry.

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