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Coroner makes plea to young drivers

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CARS ARE LETHAL WEAPONS Coroner for Mayo, Patrick O’Connor.

Inquest hears of tragic death in road crash near Newport

Anton McNulty

THE Coroner for Mayo expressed his hope lessons can be learned from the death of a 17-year-old student in a high speed car accident and that further tragedies can be prevented.
Patrick O’Connor made his comments following the inquest into the death of David McHale of Newfield, Mulranny, who died when the car he was driving crashed on the Newport Road at Corha, Castlebar at approximately 11.40pm on March 13, 2021.
Mr McHale suffered a traumatic head injury after he was thrown from the car in the impact and died a few hours later in Mayo University Hospital. Two other males were passengers in the car and they both survived the impact.
The inquest heard that shortly before the accident, the Rice College student had been performing ‘donuts’ in his 2000 registered Lexus IS 200 car at the entrance to the landfill site at Derrinumera. When gardaí arrived at the scene, he fled but his car later crashed into the wall of a house and caused extensive damage to the car.
Mr O’Connor said people would have to be living under a stone not to realise the phenomenon of young men being involved in performing ‘donuts’ on the public road and hoped lessons could be learned to prevent further deaths.

‘Utterly dangerous phenomenon’
“They get some form of thrill at driving at speed and more particularly the utterly dangerous phenomenon of donuting,” he said.
“Hopefully something good will come out of the death of this young man, which has caused such devastation to his family but also in the wider community. If there is something to learn from David’s passing it should be that you don’t take out a car, which is a lethal weapon, and go on the roadway, particularly if you don’t have experience when doing something as dangerous as this.
“Hopefully David’s memory can be dealt with in a way of preventing young people carrying on the dangerous circumstances of this phenomenon of donuting,” he concluded.
The inquest heard that Mr McHale was the registered owner of the car but did not hold a driver’s licence or permit.
A school friend of Mr McHale told the inquest that he was picked him up by him between 10.30pm and 11pm on March 13 and they drove to the dump. He said another person, who he did not know, got into the back seat and David started doing donuts.
Some time after 11pm, they saw a garda car coming from the Castlebar direction and it parked sideways on the road. Mr McHale, he said, drove around the patrol car in the direction of Castlebar and drove ‘faster and faster’.
“As we got to the scene of the crash it felt like the car went into the air. The car crashed and that is all I remember,” he told the inquest.
The youth, who is now 17-years-old, said he was not wearing his seat belt and suffered a broken nose, ankle, hip and pelvis and he tore a bone in his knee. He told Mr O’Connor that his recovery is going well.

Extensive damage
Garda Raymond Guilfoyle told the inquest he came across the accident at approximately 11.48pm at Corha, Castlebar and noticed that there was extensive damage to the car. He said it appeared the car collided with the garden wall of a nearby house and the force resulted in pillars of the wall ending up in a field and damage to a mini-digger parked on the driveway outside the house.
He said the back seat passenger, who was not hurt in the accident, was standing outside the car and brought him to where Mr McHale was lying. Garda Guilfoyle said his pulse was weak and he was brought by ambulance to Mayo University Hospital.
Sergeant Gabriel McLoughlin who examined that car stated that there was massive damage to the car with the engine and gear box both detached and separated from the car. He said it was difficult to determine the condition of the car due to the extensive damage to it but it did appear to be in a road worthy condition prior to the collision. However he noted that the car did not have an NCT certificate for eleven months before the collision and Mr McHale was not wearing a seat belt.
Garda John Naughton, the Forensic Collision Investigator concluded that ‘a combination of youthful high spirits and general lack of experience and appreciation of potential dangers, a characteristic that can feature in young males, are potentially major contributory factors in this collision’. He added that excessive speed was also a contributory factor.
A post mortem found that Mr McHale suffered a brain herniation due to a traumatic head injury. A blood test showed he was negative for both alcohol and illegal drugs.
Mr O’Connor said this was a particularly sad case and noted the conclusions of Garda Naughton that the accident arose as a result of ‘a combination of youthful high spirits and general lack of experience’. He recorded a verdict of death due to misadventure and extended his sympathy to Mr McHale’s parents and siblings and hoped that they will remember the happier times they had with David.