A FATAL accident in which a 25-year-old County Limerick man suffered “horrific” injuries showed the importance of wearing a seat belt, according to coroner Dr Tony Casey.
“I’m not saying that it would have saved his life,” Dr Casey said in respect of the late Michael Russell, “but it could have helped”.
The inquest had heard that neither Mr Russell nor his nephew David Moore, who was his passenger, were belted up when their car left the road and hit a tree at Curraghroche, Galbally, in the early hours of September 25, 2011.
Mr Russell, of Oliver Plunkett Terrace, Ballylanders, and his nephew had been drinking at a 30th birthday party in Gallahue’s bar in the village earlier that night and were travelling in the direction of Galbally when the fatal collision occurred.
David Moore told gardai he had three or four cans of cider and three or four rum and cokes but could remember very little of the night.
“The next event I recall is waking up in hospital strapped to a trolley surrounded by my family,” Mr Moore had said in his statement to gardai.
Garda Niall McInerney, Kilfinane Garda Station, said he had arrived at the scene of the single-vehicle accident shortly after 2.15am. He saw Mr Russell’s silver Honda Civic in a ditch, its nose facing into a field. David Moore was semi-conscious but there was no movement from Mr Russell.
David Moore, Garda McInerney said, was in the driver’s seat with Michael Russell across him. But Mr Russell’s feet were in the driver’s footwell, while Mr Moore’s were in the passenger’s footwell.
“Initially it was believed David Moore had been driving but we now know that this was not the case,” Garda McInerney said.
David Moore was “clearly in shock” and was not even aware he had been in an accident, Garda McInerney said.
Garda Pat Kirwan, a forensic collision investigator attached to Henry Street Garda Station, said the accident had occurred on a dry night and on a good stretch of road. There had been no evidence of braking at the accident scene.
Garda McInerney was present in the morgue when William Russell came to identify his brother’s remains. Such was the extent of the injuries that William Russell was not allowed to see his brother’s face. He instead identified him from two tattoos; one of the Grim Reaper and a dragon, the other of a snake coiled around a knife.
Dr Casey read into the record what he described as the “horrific injuries” detailed in the pathologist’s report.
Michael Russell had suffered a fractured skull and brain injuries; had a fractured spine; had broken both legs, his jaw and three ribs; had torn his liver and damaged a kidney.
A blood sample showed he had 198 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
The “trauma inflicted in the accident was huge”, the pathologist noted.
Dr Casey told the Russell family it was most unlikely he had suffered any pain. The Russells also highlighted a history of heart problems in the family and wondered whether Michael might have suffered a heart attack which caused the accident.
Dr Casey said this was unlikely as the “pathologist was quite emphatic that the heart was normal”.
The inquest recorded that Michael Russell had died from cardiovascular failure consistent with multiple injuries suffered as a result of a road traffic accident.