A YOUNG pilot died from sudden adult death syndrome while driving home after finishing his duties at Shannon Airport, an inquest into his death has heard.
First officer Denis Metcalfe, aged 25, from Copstown Cross, Mallow, was driving home from Shannon when his car veered across the road and went into a ditch at Banogue near Croom on the N20, at around 11.50pm on August 18 last.
A former flight instructor at the Atlantic Flight Training Centre, he was described by his colleagues as someone whose “skills as a pilot had already marked him out as a highly talented professional, with a promising career ahead.”
Limerick Coroner’s Court, sitting in the Circuit Court complex, heard that he flew from Shannon airport to Manchester and back, and also to Birmingham and back that day with Stobart Air, formerly Aer Arann, a franchise flying partner to Aer Lingus.
Cabin crew member Lisa Coyne told the court that she and the deceased were the last two staff to leave the plane, and Ms Coyne said he was “fine and gave no indication of feeling unwell.”
Bernadette Gleeson, a primary school teacher, from Mungret, county Limerick, was driving along the Banogue road, a long straight stretch of roadway that night and said there were two vehicles behind her. A black Peugeot approached her at normal speed, but “all of a sudden veered across the road”, collided with a ditch and was brought to a stop.
She said she stayed in her vehicle and could not see any movement in the other car. Two men in vehicles behind her ran over to the car, and an ambulance was called.
Detective Garda Anthony O’Driscoll of Henry Street garda station in Limerick, said when he arrived at the scene he found the driver of the car was asleep and couldn’t wake him.
Det O’Driscoll said he pulled him out of the vehicle, laid him on the ground and began CPR. He urged two males at the scene to call the ambulance on two occasions as he realised the severity of the situation.
Neil Maher, of the ambulance control centre in Dooradoyle, said they received the call to go to the N2O, past Banogue, at 23.50 and arrived there at around 15 minutes past midnight.
The ambulance crew took over CPR, and called for the assistance of the advance cardiac unit, as the deceased was now in cardiac arrest.
His father Henry Metcalfe, 57, identified the body of his son at 2.25am.
Garda Mick Reddy, forensic collision investigator, said the weather was dry, clear and calm that night. He said the impact sustained by the vehicle was very light, and said there was no evidence of the driver making any significant break application.
He said while it is not possible to determine the exact speed he was travelling at, he determined that the vehicle was travelling below 50 km/hr when it collided with the hedging, based on his many years of experience in this field.
He said the speed was so low it wouldn’t have caused any serious injury.
The medical evidence, conducted by Dr Vourneen Healy and read by coroner Dr Anthony Casey, revealed that he had no medical history and there was no evidence of a heart attack. All of his other organs were also operating as normal.
His death, the jury agreed in accordance with medical evidence, was due to sudden arrhythmia death syndrome - also known as sudden adult death syndrome.
The coroner, Dr Casey, the jury and Inspector Brendan McDonagh expressed their sympathies with the family of the deceased. He is survived by his parents Henry and Mary, and sister Karen.