Limerick man who survived horror crash warns: 'Don't think it will never happen to you'

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan


Fergal Cagney’s whole life was changed in a split second

Fergal Cagney’s whole life was changed in a split second

THERE WAS a reduction of 10 in the number of fatalities on Limerick’s roads in 2017.

Seven lost their lives last year compared to 17 in 2016 but one is still too many says road safety campaigner, Fergal Cagney, from Kilteely.

Fergal was involved in a horrific car crash exactly 13 years ago this month and is paralysed from the neck down. 

He doesn’t mince his words when he asks: “Do you want to have a framed photo of yourself on your mother’s locker where she can pray for her son/ daughter through her tears?

“Do you want to trouble your father by pushing you up and down the road on your wheelchair to get you a breath of fresh air, just because you put down the boot to impress your friends?”

While in his early 20s, Fergal was driving to work on the road between Hospital and Herbertstown. In similarly frosty conditions to this week Fergal hit black ice.

“I lost control of my car. I crashed into an oncoming jeep. Thankfully I was wearing a seatbelt and no one else was injured.

“I had no broken bones or bruising, but I suffered injuries to my spine and was paralysed from the neck down, which is a C3 injury,” said Fergal.

Before the accident he was sporty and outgoing.

“I had an extremely positive attitude to life and was ambitious. I went to college in LIT and completed a degree in construction management. I got a job with Roadbridge. I worked there for two and half years. Prior to my accident, I had plans to go to Australia with some friends for a year. Then my whole life changed,” said Fergal.

In total, he spent two years in hospitals in Limerick and Dublin. He couldn’t speak for six months and used a reading board to communicate. Finally, in December 2006 Fergal returned home to Kilteely.

“My family and friends built a beautiful apartment for me on to the family home. It has all the facilities I need. Along with my family, friends, Cheshire Ireland and the HSE they have provided me with wonderful carers. In total, I need 24-hour care,” said Fergal.

Spending time with Fergal is an honour and he has passed on his powerful words of advice to tens of thousands of students through speaking at the annual Lifesaver Project in Limerick.

It is targeted at young students who are about to embark on their driving careers or currently travel in cars with young friends. As well as talks from emergency services personnel, there is a demonstration of what a fatal road traffic collision is like.

While Fergal’s body was badly damaged, his spirit remains untouched.

“I go out with my friends and participate in the community. I am currently president of Kilteely-Dromkeen GAA. I am a big fan of sports and go to a lot of matches including Munster games.

“Being at home is great as my friends find it easier to call in and see me and I’m trying to get on with my life,” said Fergal, who also enjoys socialising in the pub, and going shopping.  He is a member of Spinal Injuries Ireland, Irish Wheelchair Association, and Enable Ireland where he plays boccia.

Fergal says, “It is cool to have a cool car, it’s nice to have a nice car but it’s neither cool nor nice to be in a wheelchair”.

“My message is to encourage people to drive safely, especially young people when they start driving. Do not think it will never happen to you, as I thought the same. It can happen to anyone at anytime,” said Fergal.