A MAYO coroner has called on funeral undertakers to ensure that appropriate warning lighting and traffic management is in place when conducting funerals along busy roads in the county.
Coroner for south Mayo, John O’Dwyer made the recommendation following the inquest of Mary Mulhern who died after she was struck by a car when crossing the N5 at Bohola on March 5, 2015.
Ms Mulhern (54) of 1 Sheridan Park, Bohola was attending a wake in a house located along the N5 and was crossing the road when she was struck by a car driven by Martin Roughneen. The inquest heard that Ms Mulhern was wearing dark clothing and Mr Roughneen said there was no flashing lights or stewards on the road to alert him of the wake.
A verdict of accidental death was recorded and Mr O’Dwyer said the death was avoidable and described the lack of lights or hi-vis clothing as a ‘recipe for disaster’. He said he would be taking up the issue with undertakers and feels there should be policing at funerals to prevent further accidents.
“Families may have to deal with a death once in a long number of years so undertakers should take responsibility to ensure that adequate signage, lighting and hi-vis policing of funerals is in place. In other parts of the county, neighbours direct traffic but that is more on rural roads rather than on National Primary Roads. Something must be done and in my view this was a preventable death if drivers were notified [of the funeral],” he said.
Pain and loss
Mr Roughneen of Meelick, Swinford expressed his sympathy to Ms Mulhern’s family and said she was in his prayers all the time.
“Nobody sets out to get involved in a fatal accident,” he said. “I did not know Mary at the time but I know now she was a kind, gentle, caring lady who did not deserve to have her life cut short. I am truly sorry to the Mulhern family for my part in this. This is a difficult time for me and my family. I pass the scene twice a day and I am reminded of the pain and loss of what happened there.”
Mr Roughneen explained he was travelling home from work in Castlebar shortly after 7pm and was travelling at approximately 80km per hour as he passed the Community Centre in Bohola. He said he was making his way around a left hand bend when he saw Ms Mulhern in front of him in the middle of his side of the road.
He said he immediately braked and tried to swerve right to avoid her but claimed there wasn’t enough time and hit her with the left front wing of his Citroen C4 van. He said he immediately pulled up the van and flagged down traffic to warn them.
Other people who arrived at the scene attempted to give CPR to Ms Mulhern but attempts to revive her were unsuccessful. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
When questioned by Ms Helena Boylan, solicitor for the Mulhern family, Mr Roughneen said he believed he took adequate care when travelling through Bohola. He said the only sight he had of her was when she was directly in front of her on his side of the road.
Sergeant Gabriel McLoughlin who investigated the accident disagreed with Ms Boylan when she suggested the impact of accident was head on. Sgt McLoughlin said that the damage to the van was to the left passenger side, and found that it was a side swipe impact. He added he could not determine the speed of the vehicle at the time of the accident.
A nurse by profession, Ms Mulhern had been at the wake with her sister and left to give her mother her tea at 6.50pm and had planned to return later. Her sister, Eilis Redmond, who is also a nurse, went to the scene to offer assistance and it was only then that she noticed it was her sister.
Dr Tomas Nemeth, performed a post mortem on Ms Mulhern, and said she received multiple fractures to the head and found the cause of death was due to brain herniation due to brain and spinal injuries.
Mr O’Dwyer expressed his sympathy to the family of Ms Mulhern and also expressed sympathy to Mr Roughneen.