Friend ‘hoped to confiscate driver’s keys’ moments before fatal crash, inquest hears

Garda Traffic Corps. Stock picture
Garda Traffic Corps. Stock picture

A FRIEND told an inquest on Monday he had hoped to confiscate a driver’s car keys moments before he drove into the path of an articulated lorry, killing him and leaving his son fighting for his life.

Frank Walsh (61), a building contractor from Treenlaur in Kiltimagh, died in the crash on the the N5 near Swinford, Co. Mayo on February 13, 2018.

His blood alcohol level was subsequently found to be five times above the legal limit.

His student son, Mark, was found slumped beside him in the wreckage of the UK registered Cadillac car. Mark Walsh survived after being rushed to hospital. 

PJ Cronin told the inquest in Castlebar today that he spotted his friend Frank Walsh on the Kiltimagh/Swinford road but felt he should not be behind the wheel as his driving was “swervy”.

He had earlier spotted the deceased at the back door of his house and had advised him to go inside the house as “he seemed to be drowsy”.

About a mile from Swinford Mr Cronin had witnessed a switch of drivers with Mark getting out of the driver’s side and his father taking over the wheel.

“When they pulled off again I followed them and Frank’s driving was a bit swervy,” he said.

“I decided at this stage that if they pulled into Applegreen Service Station I would pull in after them and take the keys off them.

“Frank continued to drive past Applegreen and up to the T-junction on the N5.

“I saw brake lights and he stopped at the junction. I did not see an indicator.


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“Frank’s car seemed to take off at pace. It was like he misjudged that a lorry coming from his right was so close to him and he accelerated quickly to get out of its path.

“He had turned to the right and the lorry hit his side of the car. Both vehicles ended up in the ditch on the opposite side of the road.

“I pulled in and ran across the road to find Frank and Mark slumped in the car. Other people arrived on the scene and tried to get the windscreen out.

 “The fire services, ambulance personnel and gardai arrived then and took over”.

The truck involved in the impact was owned by Donovan Transport and driven by Eugene Casey.

Mr Casey, in a statement read to today’s inquest, explained that as he approached the junction where Applegreen is located he spotted a silver car coming from the Swinford/Kiltimagh road past Applegreen with a black jeep behind it.

“The silver car kept coming out in front of me. I sounded the horn to warn him to stop,” he said.

“He kept coming so I looked to the opposite side of the road to make sure there was nothing coming the opposite way.

“It was clear so I tried to go out and around the silver car but ended up hitting it on the driver’s side, I think.

“From the force of me hitting the car, the lorry kind of jack-knifed and I ended up being faced into the bank on the opposite side of the road.

“I couldn’t believe what had happened. I switched off the lorry and rang my boss. I was in pure shock.

“If there was anything I could have done to avoid the collision I would have done it. There was nothing I could have done”.

One of the witnesses to the crash, Andrea Cully told the inquest the grey/blue Cadillac appeared not to stop at the junction but kept going.

The driver of the truck coming from the Charlestown direction was “beeping his horn constantly”, she testified.

Ms Cully continued: “The Cadillac went out in front of the truck and I heard a loud bang. The truck seemed to hit the car and then swerve.

Both vehicles ended up on the opposite side of the road.

 “The lorry driver did all he could to avoid the Cadillac”.

Ms Cully alerted the emergency services by ringing 999.

Mark Walsh, the survivor of the impact, was unable to attend today’s hearing.

Sergeant Gabriel McLoughlin, PSV Inspector for Mayo, carried out an examination of the crash vehicles.

He said it was not possible to calculate the speed of the car at at the time of the collision.

Also, it was not possible to determine whether the car braked prior to the collision.

Both vehicles were in a roadworthy condition and the road was good.

Dr Fadel Bennani, consultant pathologist, gave the cause of death as multiple fatal injuries including skull fracture with subarachnoid haemorrhage and multiple rib fracture sustained in a road traffic accident.

The level of blood alcohol was determined at 377mgs.

Coroner Pat O’Connor noted the blood alcohol level of the deceased was five times the legal limit.

After a short period of deliberation, the inquest jury returned a verdict of misadventure.

Sympathising with the Walsh family, the coroner said he had known the deceased well.

“I knew him personally. He was a lovable man and ran a very good business.

“He will be sadly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him”.

Online Editors


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