Saturday 20 January 2018

Video shows shocking last seconds before rally tragedy

The car driven by Michael Conlon can be seen
speeding over the crest of a hill
The car driven by Michael Conlon can be seen speeding over the crest of a hill
Seconds later, the out-of-control Ford Escort careers down the road (right) before crashing into spectators
Joe Lane, a motorsports photographer from Galway
Expectant mother Caroline Cleary, from Co Wexford

Luke Byrne, Tom Brady and Paul Melia

GARDAI probing the fatal rally crash which killed two people are to examine new video footage of the final moments before the accident.

The black Mark 2 Ford Escort is seen travelling over the crest of a hill at speed, before going out of control as it lands on a straight stretch of road and veers off to the left before crashing through a fence.

The car then ploughed into a crowd of 30 spectators, killing two and injuring seven, including the driver and co-driver.

Expectant mother Caroline Cleary (29), from Co Wexford, and motorsports photographer Joe Lane (50), from Galway, died after the crash which took place near Bailieborough, Co Cavan, shortly after 11am on Sunday.

Last night gardai said the film would be examined by investigators.

"With regard to any investigation, we try to put together as much information from as many sources as possible," a spokesman said. "A witness appeal would be extended to anyone filming. We would investigate any video footage."

Gardai and Motorsport Ireland have launched two separate probes, which will include studying the video footage, an examination of the car, road conditions and the safety measures put in place to protect the crowd.

The video footage -- which was obtained by local newspaper 'The Impartial Reporter' -- clearly shows spectators standing at the roadside as the Escort comes over the crest of the hill at speed. Only a red and white protective tape separates the crowd from competitor, and not everyone is behind the tape.

However, the group that is hit by the car is a considerable distance away from the jump, and appears to be in a field.


The Ford Escort was airborne for around a second, and appeared to hit a bank on the left side of the road before going out of control and veering into the fence.

Seven people were taken to hospital after the crash. Four were released that night.

The driver of the car, Michael Conlon, was last night said to be devastated at the accident. He was released from hospital on Sunday night and returned home to Dromore, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

"Mikey is in total shock, he's devastated about it, absolutely devastated," one woman said.

Mr Conlon was not home when the Irish Independent called yesterday.

The stretch of road between Bailieborough and Monaghanoose, known as the L3544, has not recorded any road traffic collisions between 2005 and 2009, data from the Road Safety Authority shows. It is a local road, meaning it does not carry large volumes of traffic, and the default speed limit is 80kmh.

Local councillor Niamh Smyth (FF) said last night she had not received any complaints about the road's condition.

More than 100 cars were competing in the event, which attracted thousands of spectators.

Chief executive of Motorsport Ireland, Alex Sinclair, said yesterday there were no barriers and that safety concerns were not raised about the location where the crash occurred.

"Given the length of the course, which can be up to 150km in certain places, there are no special rules in relation to one location except if it is anticipated there would be an incident. This was not such a case. There were (safety) marshals and we will be interviewing those to find out what took place."

The course was inspected at least three times before the rally began, and an "extensive" safety plan was in place, he added.

Irish Independent

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