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'Accidental death' recorded at inquest of boy who died in collision during garda pursuit

After striking a signpost and ditch, the car he was in became elevated on its left side and then struck a telegraph pole.

File image of a coroner's court.
File image of a coroner's court.
Image: Leah Farrell

A VERDICT OF “accidental death” was recorded at the inquest of a boy who died when the car he was traveling in crashed in a field while it was being pursed by gardaí, including armed officers.

Gearoid Sheehy, 17, from Ballincaurra Weston, Limerick, was killed instantly when the black Mazda 6, which was carrying him and others, hit a signpost and a ditch, before becoming airborne and eventually landing on its side in a field.

After striking the signpost and ditch, the Mazda became elevated on its left side and then struck a telegraph pole in mid-air.

The car, which was purchased for €350 a couple of hours before the fatal cash, “tumbled” and “rolled” into the field, eventually stopping on its side.

A garda patrol unit had initially approached the Mazda after the gardaí noticed it had a defective headlight, however the Mazda drove away from gardaí “at high speed” and “failed to stop” for members, according to garda witnesses.

Gardaí said they pursued the Mazda within the legal speed limits and kept in close communication via their patrol car radios.

Gardaí found the deceased lying in the field covered in blood beside the Mazda, and they heard one of his friends shout “please help my friend”.

Gardaí also discovered the driver, Anthony Curtin, then aged 18, and two other males in the field.

Mr Curtin, of Crecora Avenue, Ballinacurra Weston, was “hysterical and crying”, gardaí said.

Last March, Mr Curtin, received a five-year jail sentence and a 15-year driving ban after he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing Mr Sheehy’s death at Tubberyquinn, Ballyneety, on 20 March, 2018.

In their victim impact statements read at an earlier sentencing hearing last February Gearoid Sheehy’s heartbroken parents appealed to young males to drive safely saying “cars are not toys”.

“We have suffered the biggest consequences of all. Our precious son Gearoid left his home that night not knowing he would never return and we lost our precious son. Cars are not toys and the sooner people start to realise this the sooner accidents like this can be prevented,” they wrote.

Mr Sheehy’s inquest heard gardaí came upon one of the passengers who had a large cut to his neck and was bleeding heavily from his mouth, and was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Garda collision investigator Mike Reddy said he examined the scene and the four-door Mazda saloon.

There was “extensive damage” caused to the car. A “most significant and deep impression” was left in the roof of the car after it hit telegraph pole, he said.

The roof was “driven down as far as the seat back rests”. The “windscreen was cracked” and the other windows were “smashed”.

“Every panel of the car was damaged” after it went into “tumble and roll” in the field.

The driver’s seatbelt had been worn and the airbag deployed. It was unclear if the front passenger seatbelt had been worn.

The front passenger airbag was not deployed.

Garda Reddy said the left rear seatbelt had been extended indicating it was likely it had been worn by a passenger at the time.

The centre and right rear seat belts had not been worn, he concluded.

All four tyres were “deflated” in the impact.

Garda Reddy said there was “no evidence of faults of failures” with the car prior to the collision.

He concluded the Mazda started to “rotate” before colliding with the ditch and becoming “airborne”.

The telegraph pole which had struck the car’s roof as it was airborne was “broken into three pieces by the impact”.

“The impact to the roof was critical,” he said.

It’s believed the car was traveling at excessive speed before it lost control.

The inquest, held at Limerick Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, heard that a subsequent GSOC (Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission) investigation into incident concluded there were no adverse findings in relation to the pursuit by gardaí.

Coroner John McNamara said Gearoid Sheehy had died from “traumatic head injuries as a result of a single vehicle collision”.

Toxicology tests showed there was “no alcohol or drugs” in his system.

Mr McNamara said it was a “tragic case”. “It was an accidental death, there was no intent,” he said.

The deceased’s father Martin Sheehy offered “thanks to all the gardai”. 

Gardaí and the coroner shared their condolences to the Sheehy family.

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David Raleigh

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