EXPRESSED SYMPATHY Coroner for north Mayo, Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald.
A MOTORCYCLIST who died when his motorcycle collided with a van performing an illegal U-turn on the Foxford Road outside Ballina was killed immediately on impact, his inquest was told.
Martin ‘Morch’ Wynne (41) of Gortskeddia Village, Crossmolina, died on May 8, 2016, when his motorcycle struck a van driven by Declan Moran along the N26 Foxford Road at Ballinahaglish, Ballina, at approximately 3.36pm.
Mr Wynne’s inquest, which took place in Ballina, heard that he was dragged approximately 18 metres by the van before it came to a stop, and that following the incident, Mr Moran fled the scene.
The postmortem found that Mr Wynne, a father of one and an employee with the Road Safety Authority, suffered multiple fatal injuries, including a severed spine, and that death was immediate following impact.
Mr Moran of Carrentrilla, Ballina, was charged with dangerous driving causing death and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, with the final year suspended in Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court in October 2017. He was found to be over the drink-driving limit on the day. He also had traces of cocaine in his system.
Marcella Wynne, widow of the deceased, told the court that her husband was very safety conscious when on his bike, only going out when the weather conditions allowed. She explained that he went for a ride at around 12.30pm, and that she she had met him as she travelled in her car at approximately 1.30pm.
She explained that he phoned her around 3pm, but they only spoke for a few seconds because she had to attend to her young daughter. She said she then rang him at 4.20pm, but there was no answer.
Ms Wynne told the coroner for north Mayo, Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald, that her husband loved his bike but he was smart when on it and not a foolish man.
Witness Geraldine Byrne from Tullamore, Co Offaly, explained that she and her husband had stayed in Ballina and were on their way home. She said she noticed a van parked on the hard shoulder, facing Ballina. She explained that it turned on the road, and that this manoeuvre was followed by a loud bang.
“I thought, what is he at? … There was no indicator on the van,” she said.
Mrs Byrne said she saw the body of the motorcyclist under the van, and she said that the van drove ‘a bit’ before stopping. She said that although she was in shock, she phoned 999.
A statement from another witness, Claudia Doherty, was read out at the inquest. Ms Doherty stated that she was walking with her mother when she heard a very loud bang. She said she knew the driver. She said he was in shock, and on the phone, and that he walked away from the scene in the direction of Foxford.
Advanced Paramedic Derek Walsh explained that he arrived at the scene, where the motorcyclist was trapped under the van. He said he couldn’t find a pulse but was unable to reach him to perform CPR. The van was lifted off Wynne at 3.55pm and he was pronounced dead at 4.47pm.
Brendan McAndrew, a neighbour of Mr Wynne and a member of the Crossmolina Fire Service, said his unit was called to assist at the accident. He said that Mr Wynne came to mind when he heard that the casualty was a motorcyclist, and that when Mr Wynne’s identification was found in his wallet, he become upset.
“An awful feeling came over me. I stopped being a fireman. All I could think of was his wife and child at home,” he said. He said he identified Mr Wynne to the gardaí at the scene.
An investigation of the scene found that Mr Moran had a good view of 450 metres from when the motorcycle came into view to the scene of the collision. Garda Declan O’Connor, Forensic Collision Investigator calculated that if the motorcycle was travelling at 100km per hour it would take 15 seconds before it reached the van. There was no evidence of excessive speed and Mr Wynne had no alcohol or drugs in his blood.
Mr Moran was arrested at 6.20pm and when questioned by gardaí he admitted that he performed an illegal U-turn and heard a bang. He said that he did not know what the bang was, and that he figured he had gotten a blow-out and pulled in to the opposite side of the road.
The jury at the inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death. Dr Fitzgerald said that alcohol was a key factor in the death and that the death could have been prevented. With fatal traffic accidents on the rise, she said, people needed to be vigilant when on the road. It ‘beggars belief’ that these accidents are occurring despite all the enforcements and campaigns, she added.
Dr Fitzgerald expressed her sympathies to Mr Wynne’s wife, Marcella, their daughter and their family.
The foreman of the jury also expressed his sympathies, saying he had known Mr Wynne through his work in promoting road safety when he had worked as a traffic warden at Scoil Naomh Phádraig in Ballina.