Man perished to death after leaving friend home on Christmas night

August 31, 2017

A man who perished just yards from his home after driving a friend home on Christmas night died from a mixture of alcohol poisoning and hypothermia.

The body of Bartley Doohan was found by his brother close to their home in Gortahork, Co Donegal on St Stephen’s Day, 2016.

The 58-year-old machine operator had gone to the home of neighbour John Harkin, less than 500 yards away, for a couple of festive drinks.

However, an inquest into Bartley’s death heard he never returned that night and was discovered face up in a ditch the following day.

Donegal Coroner’s Court, held in Letterkenny, heard how Bartley’s Renault Laguna car was found partially in a ditch and his body was found in five inches of water a few yards away.

A post mortem on the dead man’s body found that he had eight times the normal drink-driving limit of alcohol in his body when he was found.

Mr Harkin gave evidence that he had been in Mr Doohan’s home earlier in the night at Curransport but he had left him home and the pair enjoyed a few hot whiskies together.

Mr Doohan left after 1.30am but the next morning he was contacted by Bartley’s sister Ann asking if he had seen her brother.

He went looking and came across Bartley’s brother Peter saying he had found him drowned and asked him to give him a hand taking him out of the ditch.

A doctor from the NowDoc service arrived on the scene along with Gardai and Mr Doohan was pronounced dead at 11am and taken to Letterkenny University Hospital.

Pathologist Dr Katriona Dillon said the dead man had no noticeable injuries either externally or internally apart from a small abrasion above one of his eyes and another on his toe.

She said that in her opinion death was due to alcohol intoxication and exposure to a cold environment and that there was no evidence that Mr Doohan had died as a result of a road traffic accident.

She said a reading of 403 milligrams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood of was found in Mr Doohan’s body.

Coroner Dr McCauley remarked that he wouldn’t normally see as high a level as that noting that 50 milograms of alcohol was the drink-driving limit.

He said “That alone could have been enough to cause his death.”

The coroner agreed with Dr Dillon that death was due to alcohol intoxication and hypothermia and recorded a finding of death by misadventure.

He added it was especially sad considering the time of year of Mr Doohan’s death.

“It’s just very sad. It was miserable night and he wasn’t going to walk home and it resulted in a terrible accident which caused his death. It happened on Christmas night which adds to the sheer extra sadness,” he said.