Car driven by 13 year old was ‘dangerously defective’
The car driven by a 13-year-old Clare Islander was in a ‘dangerously defective’ condition, an inquest into his death has heard. A jury recorded a verdict of death by misadventure at the inquest at Castlebar Courthouse yesterday (Monday).
The incident took place in the early hours of Sunday, August 5, 2018, on a local road on Clare Island that links the quay with the church on the island. The inquest was told that the 24-year-old Audi 80 car that Morgan Pinder was driving was discovered on its side at 1.50am by Clare Islander Brendan Burns. Morgan was trapped underneath.
The cause of death was given by pathologist Dr Tamás Németh as traumatic asphyxia due to lung hemorrhage as a consequence of ‘crushing force of the chest’.
Morgan Pinder was pronounced dead at the scene at 3.45am by Dr Noreen Lineen-Curtis, who had come from Achill Island.
Morgan’s mother Maureen Pinder gave a statement to the inquest. Its believed she was the last person to see him before the accident.
She said all the family had been in the Clare Island Community Centre for her sister’s birthday. At approximately 12.50am, she said, Morgan asked if he could go up to the local hotel, as his brother had gone up earlier.
Ms Pinder said it was too late and told him he should go home. She added that she saw Morgan buying a can of Coke and heading out the door.
Garda Keith Deane was the first garda on the scene, having also been ferried over by the RNLI from his base on Achill. He said that when he arrived, he observed a number of people ‘in a distraught state’ and Morgan Pinder’s body trapped between the middle support column of the vehicle and the ground.
Forensic investigator Inspector Séamus O’Regan told the inquest that he examined the scene and the car and that the driver’s seatbelt was ‘hanging loose and available for use’. He said damage on the passenger’s side and roof indicated that the car had travelled along the roadway on its side after the initial impact, believed to be with a ditch.
He told Coroner Patrick O’Connor that the car travelled 21.8 metres from where it appears to have gone off the road to where it came to rest.
PSV Inspector for the Mayo Garda Division Sergeant Gabriel McLoughlin examined the car at Knappagh, Westport, on August 11, 2018, after it was taken from the island for examination.
He said the front passenger’s-side outer brake pad was ‘practically seized’, but the brake was operating fully on the inside. The driver’s-side front outer brake pad was not moving freely in its bracket but the brake was operating fully on the inside.
He said the rear passenger’s-side brake disc was heavily corroded on both sides, ‘resulting in poor contact between the brake pads and the disc’.
He added the outside of the rear driver’s side brake disc was also heavily corroded, resulting in poor contact between the brake pad and the disc.
“From examination I was satisfied that this vehicle was in a dangerously defective condition, but the driver may not have been aware of the defect while driving or have discovered them by the exercise of ordinary care. The vehicle was such that the vehicle was, when in motion, a danger to the public,” said Sergeant McLoughlin.
Sergeant McLoughlin added that the car was registered to a deceased priest who had ministered on the island.
Road and weather conditions were not identified as contributing factors in the accident, while toxicology results showed no alcohol or drugs in Morgan Pinder’s system.
In the autopsy report from Dr Németh said ‘this boy was driving a car on Clare Island when it hit a ditch and he appears to have been thrown from the car and [it] overturned on him in the early hours on the morning of August 5’.
Coroner Patrick O’Connor described the case as ‘very difficult and very tragic’. He told the jury of five men and one woman that they had three possible verdicts open to them, accidental, misadventure and an open verdict.
He described an accidental death as an event without apparent cause, ‘it occurs by chance whereas misadventure is the unintended result of an intended act’.
The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure, after which Mr O’Connor extended his sympathies.
“It’s not for me to say what might be learned from Morgan’s short life or indeed for the incident, but I’m sure that the community on Clare Island and further afield will take lessons from what happened,” he said.
He extended his sincere sympathy with Morgan’s parents, his three brothers, all his family and friends and with all on ‘the tight community’ of Clare Island. He also complimented those who tried to assist immediately after the accident and those first responders who did assist afterwards.