herald

Sunday 20 January 2019

Teacher died after branch fell from trees on roadside

AN inquest has heard that pruning of overhanging trees was not enough to prevent the death of a retired teacher who died after being hit by a falling branch.

Maura Horgan (57) of Ashbourne Park, South Circular Road, Limerick was struck on April 22 last while she walked along O'Connell Avenue in Limerick.

The inquest heard Mrs Horgan suffered traumatic head injuries, including multiple skull fractures, after a rigid refrigerated truck hit the branch off a tree as it attempted to negotiate its way around road works.

The jury heard that the Parks Department of Limerick City Council had pruned trees along O'Connell Avenue before contractors for Bord Gais began working on gas mains.

The overhanging branches were situated along the kerbside which was normally reserved for parking, but had been cleared to allow inbound traffic travel towards the city while works were carried out on the opposite side of the road.

Experienced forensic and collision investigator Garda Michael Reddy examined the scene following the death. He said the pruning "was not adequate to safeguard against high-sided vehicles".

Garda Reddy said he uncovered evidence of another piece of the branch breaking off from a previous accident prior to Mrs Horgan's death. He said a "significant part in this tragedy" was the arrangement of the traffic cones and bollards in conjunction with the pruning of the trees.

Driver of the truck, Patrick O'Connor from Parteen, Co Clare, did not recall striking the tree when contacted by gardai. He said he would have stopped the vehicle had he known he struck the branch.

Due to the road works, the lorry had to drive close to the kerb, but did not mount the foothpath. In order to clear the branch, the inquest heard that the vehicle would have needed to be half a metre from the kerb.

Midwife, Pauline O'Connor had been driving behind the lorry and said she got out of her car when she saw the victim lying on the ground.

Ms O'Connor said the woman was bleeding from the nose and head before she was rushed to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.



Retired

The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence and recommended that greater care be paid to the pruning of trees at road works sites in future.

Nobody from Limerick City Council spoke at the inquest.

Mrs Horgan had retired from St Enda's Secondary School in Limerick where she taught Irish shortly before the accident. She had only been married six months when she died.

Her widow, Michael Horgan said the inquest had been "a very difficult day for her family".

"We would like to prevent any other family from having to go through this again, so we were glad that the jury made a recommendation. We would really like to see this doesn't happen again because it is unbelievably painful for all involved," Mr Horgan said.

He said Maura's family were "absolutely gutted" from the entire experience.

hnews@herald.ie

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