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Friday 19 October 2018

Driver 'off his head' on drink, drugs when crash car turned into fireball that killed three

Mary Bermingham begged for her family’s lives at crash scene. Photo: Patrick Browne
Mary Bermingham begged for her family’s lives at crash scene. Photo: Patrick Browne
Driver Eamon Dixon was more than four times over the limit

The young driver of a car in which he and two friends died when it exploded in a fireball after hitting a family of six was more than four times the drink-drive limit.

Eamon Dixon (22), the driver of the Volkswagen Golf that burst into flames, had a blood alcohol level of 221mg as well as having traces of cocaine and other drugs in his system, a Waterford coroner's inquest heard.

Mr Dixon, of Abbeyside, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and passengers Kenneth O'Sullivan (39) and Michael Tobin (38) died when the Golf crossed on to the wrong side of the road on the N72 on December 4, 2016.

Terrified

The inquest heard that Darren Foley, the father of Mr Dixon, said he had spoken on the phone with his son earlier that morning and he sounded "off his head" on drink.

Seconds before the collision, the Golf overtook another car at speed and glanced off it, tearing off its wing mirror.

Another man, Patrick Murray, said he accepted a lift in the Volkswagen in Dungarvan and was terrified when he realised the condition of the occupants.

The car drove on the wrong side of the road past Dungarvan Garda Station and Mr Murray insisted on getting out.

"I pulled the handbrake. I was scared for my own safety. I just got out," he said.

When the three friends tried to persuade him to get back in, he told them to "f**k off".

He then tried to persuade the young men to get out of the car themselves, but they sped off.

All three suffered horrific injuries to their skulls, hearts, lungs, livers, spines and spleens and died almost instantly, having been burned beyond recognition. They had to be identified from DNA samples.

The stretch of Military Road used as a bypass for Dungarvan is noted for its undulations and restricted visibility.

Waterford coroner Dr Eoin Maughan heard that the Golf ploughed into a Citroen C4 carrying Mary Bermingham, her four children aged from seven to 15 and her partner Gary Fenton.

The Cork family were taking the children to see Santa at a Waterford Christmas festival.

Other motorists came across the collision and tried to help.

The doors of the Citroen were jammed shut by the damage and Ms Bermingham and her children were begging for help. Mr Fenton, who was driving, was unconscious.

Ms Bermingham said she became concerned when onlookers were unable to get her family out of the people carrier and she could smell smoke coming from the Volkswagen.

"Are you going to leave us here to die?" she pleaded at the scene. All six were successfully removed and taken by ambulance and helicopter to Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Waterford.

Catastrophic

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said the three men died from multiple catastrophic injuries consistent with being involved in a road collision at speed.

Mr Tobin was from Abbeyside, Dungarvan, while Mr O'Sullivan, the Golf owner, was from Seminary Road, Cork.

The Waterford inquest jury returned verdicts of accidental death for all three men.

Dr Maughan warned that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol was akin to a loaded weapon.

"If you are under the influence, you should not get behind the wheel," he said.

He described the case as "very, very tragic" but paid tribute to the Waterford emergency services who had helped prevent further loss of life.

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