YOUNG people driving cars should avail of the tracks and circuits provided for experimenting with speed, rather than speeding on the public roads, a coroner has said.
Speaking after the inquest into the death of Raymond Cunningham (24) from Tullamaine, Fethard, which occurred after a high-speed car crash near Cashel in 2008, coroner Paul Morris said the speeds involved of up to 196kph were “madness” and said it was “a miracle” more people weren’t killed.
Two high-performance Audi cars clipped off each other while travelling at high speed along a regional road between Cashel and Rosegreen on July 12 of 2008, resulting in the death of Raymond Cunningham.
He was travelling alone in a red Audi TT while the other car involved in the crash, a black Audi A5 being driven by Joe O’Leary (38) became airborne and crashed into the gable end of a house, pinning a young boy underneath it.
The boy, Jack Costello (9), was at a family gathering at his grandmother’s house at Price’s Lot, Cashel, and was saved when his father, John Costello, used a forklift truck to remove the black Audi. He has since made a partial recovery, this week’s inquest into Mr Cunningham’s death heard at Clonmel courthouse. His grandmother’s house was deemed “unsafe” and had to be demolished.
Two teenage boys - Joe O’Leary’s son Raymie and friend David McGeer - were passengers in Mr O’Leary’s black Audi and were injured in the crash.
David McGeer, who was 13 at the time, said he met his friend Raymie in Cashel on the night of Saturday, July 12, and they were then being driven home by Joe O’Leary. It was the day before the Munster final in Limerick between Tipperary and Clare.
When they got to the roundabouts outside Cashel, on the Rosegreen road, they spotted the red Audi coming from the Fethard direction and Raymie said “that’s a class car” to his father. Joe O’Leary “said nothing but looked at Raymie,” and then drove behind the other car, at high speed.
“I felt frightened as we were travelling fast,” David McGeer said in his statement which was read out at the inquest.
It was after an attempted overtaking manoeuvre by Joe O’Leary that the two cars came into contact.
Joe O’Leary was jailed last year after admitting dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm.
“The speeds were phenomenal in this instance,” forensic collision investigator Sgt John Moore told the inquest. “Sadly, the cars were travelling as fast as each other. There was no room for error.”
Sergeant Moore said he found that the black Audi was being driven between 144 and 196 kph.
Chairman of the inquest jury, Jimmy Keating, asked if anything could be done to prevent such speeds.
“It’s human choice for all of us driving cars, really,” the sergeant replied.
Coroner Paul Morris described the driving by both Mr O’Leary and the late Mr Cunningham as “pure madness” and “utterly incredible stuff” on the night in question. “Nearly about half a dozen of them could have been killed,” he said.
Raymond Cunningham, who was travelling alone in the red Audi TT, was thrown from the car after it was clipped by Mr O’Leary’s Audi and spun out of control, landing on its side. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Pathologist Dr Robert Tait concluded after a post-mortem examination that death was due to “multiple injuries” including extensive bleeding into the brain and the chest cavity, consistent with a road accident.
The jury in the inquest returned a verdict of accidental death, consistent with the medical evidence.
Solicitor for the Cunningham family, Peter O’Reilly, said it was “pure happenstance” that the two drivers of two similar cars were on the same stretch of road together on the night of July 12, 2008, as they didn’t know each other.
“It makes it even more extraordinary,” the coroner said upon hearing that. “I have to register how appalled myself and the jury are at the speeds both parties were going on the evening in question, and the potential for total havoc. It’s a miracle that more people weren’t more seriously injured or fatally injured.”
It was understandable, he said, that young people become enamoured with speed and sports cars. “But if young people want to experiment with speed and souped-up cars, I’d strongly recommend that they do it on the tracks that are provided for that type of sporting pursuit.”