Fair City actor sues over stress of crash terror
AN actor told the High Court yesterday he may never act again because of a traffic accident in which he believed he was going to drown.
Tony McKenna (37), who appeared in TV dramas such as The Clinic, Fair City and Ros na Run, and at the Abbey and the Samuel Beckett theatres, has brought a High Court action for personal injuries and post traumatic stress disorder after the accident on November 19, 2007.
He had to take evasive action as a car approached him on the wrong side of the M4 motorway between Kinnegad and Mullingar.
He is suing the driver of the other car, Paddy Keogh, of Gibbonstown, Rochfordbridge, Westmeath. The hearing is for assessment of damages only.
The court heard Mr McKenna, of Charleville Close, Rathmines, Dublin, was driving himself and two acting colleagues to a performance in Castlebar when they saw a car coming towards them.
He manoeuvred to avoid a collision but, as a result, went through a wooden fence and up onto a roadside mound, causing the car to flip over onto its roof into a ditch with 5ft of water, his counsel Jim O'Callaghan said.
The car began to quickly fill up with water and while his passengers managed to get out, the electric window would not work and he could not undo his seatbelt.
He believed he was going to die and in a deliberate attempt not to prolong this, he allowed water to get into his lungs, counsel said. At that stage, he passed out and was then pulled out by one of his passengers, Elaine O'Dea.
Mr McKenna told the court the car filled up with water quickly because the windscreen and sun roof of his Nissan Primera smashed in the impact.
Breaking down as he recalled the incident, he said he reached out to see if he could find Ms O'Dea and when he could not, he thought "we are all dead". He lost control of his body and ran out of ideas about what to do, he said.
It was estimated he spent around three-and-a-half minutes in the car before being rescued. He was taken to hospital suffering from groin and hip injuries and, after receiving two morphine injections, was discharged.
The Castlebar show they were due to perform that night, Falling Out Of Love, was cancelled but they received a standing ovation when they went ahead with the same show in Limerick two nights later, he told the court.
Mr McKenna said he earned around €20,000 from his acting in the year of the accident.
He completed the Falling Out Of Love tour, but it was when he began working on his next job, a tour of Macbeth for schools, that he began suffering from panic attacks.
He had difficulty in rehearsing and when he went on stage, he was shaking "with tears running down my face". He suffered similar problems on his next show in Cork. He stopped socialising with fellow cast members and was only able go from the show straight to the room he was staying in.
He could not sleep properly, sometimes waking up wondering was he dead or alive, and became withdrawn from his friends and family. For three Christmas mornings since the accident, he had "woken up on my own because I am terrified of people round me, I do not want people to see how I am".
He is on disability payments and did not know whether he would ever be able to resume his acting career.
The hearing continues.