Friday 14 December 2018

'Get my babies, get my babies'

Banteer mum screams for help after young driver 'off his head' on drink and drugs ploughs into their car - with other car in an inferno of flames nearby

A Banteer mum shouted at would-be rescuers 'get my babies, get my babies' as she lay stricken in her car seconds after a young driver 'off his head' on drink and drugs had ploughed straight into them.

The young driver of the other car, in which three men died when it exploded in a fireball after colliding with the vehicle carrying the Banteer family of six, was more than four times over the alcohol limit.

This week, a Waterford coroner's inquest heard that the driver of the Volkswagen Golf, Eamon Dixon (22), had a blood alcohol concentration of 221mg as well as having traces of cocaine and other drugs in his system. The inquest heard that Mr Dixon from Abbeyside, Dungarvan was "off his head" that day on drink.

Mr Dixon's friends, Kenneth O'Sullivan (39) and Michael Tobin (38), died alongside the young driver after the Golf crossed onto the wrong side of the road on the N72 outside Dungarvan, Co Waterford on December 4, 2016. Seconds before the collision, the Golf overtook another car at speed and glanced off it, tearing off its wing mirror.

Another man, Patrick Murray, said he accepted a lift in the Volkswagen in Dungarvan and was terrified when he realised the condition of the occupants. The car drove on the wrong side of the road past Dungarvan Garda Station and Mr Murray insisted on getting out. "I pulled the handbrake ... I was scared for my own safety. I just got out."

When the car occupants tried to persuade him to get back in, he told them to "F*** off" and later tried to persuade them to get out of the car themselves but they sped off.

All three young men suffered horrific injuries to their skulls, hearts, lungs, livers, spines and spleens and died almost instantaneously after the collision on the N72 or Military Road in Dungarvan. The stretch of road, used as a bypass of Dungarvan town, is noted for its undulations and restricted visibility.

The Golf exploded in a fireball after the impact and all three men were burned beyond recognition. They were later identified from DNA samples.

Waterford Coroner Dr Eoin Maughan heard that the Golf ploughed into a Citroen C4 carrying Mary Bermingham, her four children aged from seven to 15 years, and her partner, Gary Fenton. The family from Banteer were taking the children to see Santa Claus at a Waterford Christmas event.

Other motorists came across the collision and desperately tried to help. The doors on the Citroen were jammed shut by the damage and the mother and her children were pleading for rescue. Mr Fenton, who was driving, was unconscious.

Ms Bermingham said she saw another vehicle pass the scene and fail to stop. "I remember thinking who would pass the scene of an accident and not stop to help," she said.

Ms Bermingham said that she became concerned when onlookers were unable to get her family out of the wrecked people carrier and she could smell smoke coming from the burning Volkswagen. Her children were screaming from the back seat.

"Are you going to leave us here to die," she pleaded at the scene?

The distraught mother also repeatedly shouted: "Get my babies, get my babies."

All six were successfully removed from the wrecked vehicle and transferred by ambulance and helicopter to Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Waterford. All have since made successful recoveries.

Garda Ruth Finn, a forensic traffic investigator, said it was impossible to determine the speed at which the Golf was being driven. However, she noted that the Golf pushed the Citroen back by 16 metres on the roadway despite the fact the Vokswagen was 300kg lighter fully laden than the French people carrier.

Such was the intensity of the fireball which consumed the car that even nearby trees and ditches were charred.

The Waterford inquest jury returned verdicts of accident death for all three men.

Dr Maughan warned that driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol was akin to treating it like a loaded weapon. "The message is that if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs you should not get behind the wheel," he said.