A TEENAGE girl has told how a mum and her daughter died after their car plunged into an icy river. The young girl and two pals cheated death by using the light from a mobile phone to escape the horror crash.
A tearful Kate McLoughlin (14) recalled how the car went “round and round like in a tumble drier” before plunging into the icy water while they were on the way to a teenage disco.
Sandra Herbert (40) and her daughter Rachel (15) – who were in the front of the Toyota Avensis – died in the crash before Christmas last year.
“I heard Rebecca and Carrie screaming. I could see Sandra but could not see Rachel. Sandra was not making any sound. I was freezing cold,” Kate told an inquest into the tragic deaths.
The teenager then tried to rescue the driver, Sandra Herbert, by pulling her hair as the car lay upside down in river.
“I could see a light shining and I could see Sandra's face. She was under water and I was as well,” Kate added.
“I remember when I woke up I tried to pull Sandra's head out of the water. I was pulling at her hair but could not move her,” she said.
Kate, from Ballina, Co Mayo, was in the back of the car with friends Rebecca Langan (14), from Knockmore, and Carrie McAndrew (13), from Foxford.
Sandra Herbert, who worked for the Road Safety Authority, in Ballina, had volunteered to bring the girls on the short drive to a disco run by Foroige in Ardagh Community Centre, near Knockmore, Co Mayo.
After skidding, the car dropped 10 feet upside down into 57cms of water.
Kate told north Mayo coroner Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald that they were driving at a normal speed when the car skidded.
“I heard Sandra screaming. I think the car rumbled and I remember going round and round like in a tumble drier.
“There was a big splash. I did not realise the car was on its roof in the river.
“Water started coming in. To me it looked like Sandra had fallen over on Rachel. I must have had a blackout, because when I woke up I was lying on the back passenger door on the driver's side.”
She added: “I could see a light shining and I could see Sandra's face. She was under water and I was as well. I remember when I woke up I tried to pull Sandra's head out of the water. I was pulling at her hair but could not move her.”
With the light of a mobile phone, Kate managed to find a switch which unlocked the door and all three managed to escape from the vehicle.
Rebecca Langan said they were in water up to their waists and had to cling to nettles and thorns as they struggled out of the water.
Evidence was also given by local rescuers who arrived on the scene that Sandra Herbert and her daughter Rachel were dead when taken from the upturned vehicle and efforts to resuscitate them failed.
Rescuer Ian Kelly said the road where the tragedy took place was “a notorious frost pocket”. Garda Inspector Joe Doherty said air and ground temperatures were below zero at the time of the accident.
The driver losing control on black ice was the primary cause of the tragedy, he stated.
Pathologist Dr Fadel Bennani, who carried out post- mortems, said there were no injuries to either body and the cause of death in both cases was asphyxia due to drowning.
An inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental deaths with icy roads a contributory factor.