A man has described how he miraculously cheated death in an accident that claimed the lives of two Donegal men.
Joe Chambers, from Warrenpoint in County Down, was speaking at the inquest into the deaths of Barney McGinley (28) and Dermot Boyle (19) which occurred on July 27, 2016.
Mr Chambers was on his way to deliver sandwiches to Letterkenny University Hospital at 4.45am when his Renault Master van was struck by a Mitsubishi Charisma traveling the wrong way down the N13 dual carriageway between Letterkenny and Manorcunningham.
“As I drove around a left-hand bend, I saw the glimpse of a vehicle with no lights on,” Mr Chambers recalled.
“It all happened so quickly. If there had been lights I might have had a chance of moving over.
“There was nothing I could do. I had no warning. We just collided head on.
“I just remember the figure of someone’s face in front of me. It all came out of nowhere. I couldn’t move and saw blood coming from my black trousers. The firemen cut the van and someone cut my clothes.”
Mr Chambers had surgery in Letterkenny University Hospital before being transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where he had his left hip and left knee reconstructed.
Mr Chambers, who has to use a crutch to aid his mobility, now has to superapubic catheter, had to have physiotherapy to enable him to walk again and is to be referred to a psychologist.
A post-mortem showed that McGinley, the driver of the great Charisma, had a blood-alcohol level of 106mg, twice the legal limit and the inquest heard he was not wearing a seatbelt.
Pathologist Dr Caitriona Dillon, who carried out post mortem examinations on the two men, said both died instantly.
McGinley, who was found to have had a severe underlying heart disease, had large tears to both his liver and lung while Boyle also had a catalogue of serious injuries to his brain, heart and liver following the horrific smash.
“Each injury alone would have been fatal,” coroner Dr Denis McCauley said.
“The only slight mercy is that they would have been instantly unconscious.”
The inquest heard that both died from multiple injuries consistent with a road traffic accident.
A jury of four men and four women found that both deaths were due to misadventure.
The first person on the scene, Nigel Robinson, saw how he saw ‘nothing but smoke’.
“There was just a deathly silence,” he said. “I phoned the emergency services right away. I didn’t want to go near the car as there was still a lot of smoke coming from it. I shouted at the van, but there was no response.
“When the smoke disappeared I could see a body in the car, face down in the driver’s seat. There was no way that I was checking for a pulse. I thought there was only one body in the car.
“I felt that Joe was drifting in and out of consciousness. After three or four minutes, i waved down another car. We went to the van to try keep Joe awake.
“I was still on the phone to the emergency services. The person in the car appeared to have been a passenger so there must have been a driver.
“The emergency services told me to look around. At this stage, the driver nudged me with his elbow and nodded to the ground. I saw another male on the ground. I knew he was dead.
“The car was whistling at the motors were still rushing.”
McGinley’s mother, Chrissie, told how she was in her local shop at 8.30 that morning when a man she described as ‘a complete stranger’ approached her and said ‘sorry about your son’.
“He said there had been a bad accident on the dual carriageway and mentioned the car, but I knew none of my sons had that kind of car.”
Ms McGinley told how she went to the scene and saw two people on the road and later identified her son’s body at Letterkenny University Hospital.
“The last time I saw him alive was the evening before and he was in great form, just normal Barney,” she said.
Bridget Boyle, Dermot’s mother, said her son had arrived home at 2am and presumed that when he left again at 2.30am that he had done so on foot.
There had been suggestions that the Charisma was being pursued by Gardaí at the time of the crash.
Taxi driver Paul Mullen said how he had ‘nearly been wiped out’ eat the Dry Arch roundabout. A grey car, ‘traveling so fast I didn’t know the make or model’, he said had cut up the wrong lane of the dual carriageway and he did not see any other car.
Taxi driver Brendan Devine said said he was retuning to Letterkenny when he met a car traveling towards him in the fast lane of the dual carriageway.
“It was traveling very fast and the lights were off; I could only see a small speck,” he said. “As it approached me, they flicked on the lights and I swerved to avoid it.”
Stephen Harkin said he met a car, with its headlights on, traveling at speed. “I saw it coming around the corner, maybe 200 yards away, I saw the headlights before I saw the car,” he said.
Garda Eamon Dunne recounted how, on the night in question, he encountered cows on the Letterkenny-Ballybofey road at Lurgybrack and proceeded to put them into a field.
As he was making the return journey to Ballybofey, Garda Dunne said he checked the cows were still in the field and, as he was reversing out onto the road, he activated the blue lights ‘for maybe ten seconds’.
“I could hear a car traveling at excessive speed driving down the hill,” he said. “It had no lights on and it was traveling that fast I couldn’t make out the make or the model’.
He did not pursue the vehicle, he said, as it would have been ‘too dangerous’.
Within 30 seconds, Garda Dunne and Garda Mailey, who accompanied him, put a call in to other units and had to responded to an incident in the nearby village of Drumkeen.
Dr McCauley said the Gardaí acted in a ‘safe and effective way’.
Family members wept as the findings were read out. The jury unanimously found that McGinley’s death was by misadventure and, on a 6-2 majority, found that Boyle’s death was due to misadventure.
Dr McCauley said: “The only solace is that they died instantly and would not even have been aware of the accident.”Tags: