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Friday, March 09, 2007

The Monaghan car crash - Lives lived and lost in vain



As part of Damien Blakes efforts to highlight the problem of road deaths I created this post back in October. The event that prompted this was the deaths of five young men in Monaghan in a head on collision.

There were other posts from many other bloggers under the technorati tag of .At the time my own particular take on the situation was on the relative disparity in coverage given to the crash when it happens compared to that given to the inquest or the uncovering of the causes which tends to happen much later. Others commented on other aspects of this crash or road safety more generally. One in particular Sarah Carey received quite strong condemnation for having the insensitivity to voice an opinion about the circumstances when the cause of the crash had still to be determined at an inquest. Yet she was not alone in being attacked for having an opinion. Indeed, some folks took it upon themselves, and it appears have done so again, to try and intimidate people from commenting on this incident. Well, I said my piece at the time and I'm saying it again now. And I'm not going to be shut up or go away.

Let us start with some facts. At the inquest held this past week we were told that both drivers involved were substantially over the alcohol limit, were driving at speeds which would not have been appropriate during daylight not to mind 2am at night and at least one of the drivers didn’t have his seatbelt on.

Pathologist Dr John Ryan said that CiarĂ¡n Hagan had a blood-alcohol level of 201mgs per 100ml and a urine-alcohol level of 253mgs. He was driving alone in his Blue Golf, and it was he that crossed the road, he was doing 100km per at 2am on a road that allows for 80km maximum during daylight.

Dermot Thornton had a blood-alcohol of 147mgs per cent and urine-alcohol level of 196mgs per cent. He was driving the Red Golf at 125 km with the 3 passengers on a road that allows for 80km during the daylight. The blood and urine levels of both drivers would indicate that both had what is euphemistically “a good bit to drink”.

No one has said as much but it is plain that since one of the cars crossed over the median of the road to travel in the opposite at speed towards the other car that both drivers were engaged in reckless and irresponsible behaviour by speeding and driving while drunk. Whether both or one of them was playing "chicken" according to what it is generally understand to be chicken doesn't matter. They could have been blindfolded and naked, playing the banjo for all the difference it makes. They were hammered and driving dangerously at night. 201mg for 100ml of blood is blind fucking drunk in anyone's language.

I appreciate that this is a terrible loss for the families and friends of those concerned. Yet, we do everyone a disservice if we allow that to blind us to the wrongness of their behaviour. Imagine for moment that these two cars had not met each other but instead if they had each individually encountered some stone cold sober couple with their children in their car returning from a wedding. Those would be the innocents not either of these two drivers.

We will change no one's behaviour while we persist in honouring the dead who did not die with honour. We have as a nation a terrible tendency to view such deaths as if they were something that had simply come upon the people concerned. These lads were not struck down by a terrible disease. They were their own victims. The Japanese as a nation have a similarly self evidently stupid attitude to WWII acting as if it was some awful thing that happened and which they were simply innocent bystanders in instead of something they had been active participants involved in.

If it was a member of my family I would be angry with them for being so fucking stupid. I wouldn’t love them any less but I would be angry and disappointed with them and I would not seek to defend what they had done.

Some would say that the rest of us should try to do something so that their deaths might not be in vain. We can’t do that. Their deaths were in vain, will always be in vain and nothing anyone does can change that. They did not intend to die but they did know what they were doing and their deaths are a waste. And people who waste are…. We should not seek to honour them. We should have sympathy for the families but not for the men themselves. It is vanity and self indulgence that led to these deaths. At the time of the crash many said that we should not be so quick to pass judgement. Well, now we’ve had the inquest where are the apologies for attacking those who pointed out what was reckless and dangerous behaviour?

Did they deserve to die? No. However, they did not deserve to kill anyone else either. It would not be right to say they killed themselves but it would seem correct to say that they killed each other. If society has any blame in this it is the local society that they were apart of that glorifies racing about the place at speed. And this has nothing to do with rallying or loving cars. The Scots and Scandinavians have strong rallying traditions and nowhere near our level of road deaths perhaps because they have the cop on or respect for the lives of others to know not to drive as these lads did on a public road.

We as a nation need to think more about the lives we can still save rather than those that are gone. We can't simply leave people alone in their grief while those who continue to drive as these young men did are killing people up and down the country. These young men may have loved life but they evidently had little respect for the lives of others.

If they chose to buy some land and race about on it and end up killing themselves then it would be one thing. However, when you behave as they did on a public road then don't expect me to weep for your passing.

It was noted that the deceased had all been loved by their families, neighbours and friends and that their deaths had left a huge void in the community. I can understand your friends and family missing you but truth be told I’m not sure why anyone else should. Or why we should be expected to mourn the loss of people we never knew. When you really love someone you know they have faults but love them anyway, to try and hide such faults when they have contributed to their own deaths is truly to do a service to the dead.

We’ve had the inquest and the relative silence of the press has been deafening. Where is the strong media focus now that we do know the factors involved in this shameful lose of life? The reason for highlighting the reckless behaviour at the time is the chance we might have the most effect on those who might do the same. It is far too late once the sudden horror has passed. Not much point in seeing Charlie Bird on the roadside or getting the big Sunday paper coverage now.

You can find the Irish Times coverage of the inquest here and from the Independent here.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

not every1 in that car was drunk or had been drinkin in that pub the whole night get ur facts right before you condemn people on a public blog.

Anonymous said...

Well said!

In fact the guy driving the red car was said to have been marginally over the limit and he was on his own side of the road. He had gone back to the village for another friend. He then went to go to the party and was followed closely behind by another car (the car that arrived first on the scene). The word "chicken" really annoys me, for if you knew either of these lads personally you would not suggest the like. The garda also ruled any games out early on in the investigation and the evidence given at the inquest reiterated this. As for the guy in the other car on the wrong side of the road, he had been working in France for months prior to the accident and was only home a few days. This could well have been just driver error as he was use to the other side of the road in France. His windows may have steamed up and lost visibility momentarily, the inquest heard his heater was on full and it wasn't for the heat value as he was less than a mile away from where he started out or he might have been fixing the radio. It was an accident. Either way "idiots" like yourself that were not at the inquest, don't know all the facts and are jumping to you own conclusions are exactly that "idiots". Have you ever driven with 2 pints at 75mph? Now just think about that before you 'cast the first stone'.

Dan Sullivan said...

Ah, the anonymouses are out and about in full roar.

Anon1, If you read the post, you will find I was discussing the condition of the drivers. I didn't mention the condition of the passengers. Since, you appear to know, tell us how much the passengers had to drink if you think it matters?

Anon2, 147 mg is not marginally over the limit. The limit is 80mg, so being at 90mg might be said to be marginally over, 147 isn't. While two pints would put you over 80mg, you need to remember that the body metabolises about half a pint per hour on average and then ask how many pints would leave you on 147mg in the blood at the end of the night? The urine reading was higher again.

As for the idea that it was driving in France that was the main contributory factor. You don't think that if he had been sober that he would have been less likely to be on the wrong side of the road. As for the heater being on, you don't think the reason might have been that he had the window down to try and sober himself up or keep himself awake and then put on the heater because it was making the car cold. Of course, that is just idle speculation but you started it.

It doesn't appear to be facts you lack but the common sense to make use of them.

And no I've never driven at 75mph with 2 pints in me. Guess in your view that makes me less of a man, if so then in my view it makes you more of a muppet.

Anonymous said...

Ciaran had just came back from france bout 4 o clock that day its a country road anyway theres no clear markings and errors like that has occurred before and those people werent accused of playin chicken.well i know 1 of the passengers had 1 pint bout 10 that evenin thats it.yeah the boys drove with a few pints on them that night theyr not the only people in the world to do it they were only goin up the road.Dya expect them to ring a taxi and wait 2hours for 1 to come from town which is how long it takes at that hour of night.Theyd alcohol in them they werent drunk and THEY WERE NOT PLAYIN CHICKEN,The boys didnt even know ciaran was on his way back in the road.To play chicken you need to set it up they didnt.I bet the boys didnt even know it was ciaran theyd crashed into all theyd of seen is the lights of the car coming at them.It wasnt a straight road either the pictures in the paper dont show that theres a dip in the road were ciaran was coming from and its possible not to see a car till the last minute,which as what was told at the inquest resulted in evasive action from the red golf.

Anonymous said...

Ciaran had just came back from france bout 4 o clock that day its a country road anyway theres no clear markings and errors like that has occurred before and those people werent accused of playin chicken.well i know 1 of the passengers had 1 pint bout 10 that evenin thats it.yeah the boys drove with a few pints on them that night theyr not the only people in the world to do it they were only goin up the road.Dya expect them to ring a taxi and wait 2hours for 1 to come from town which is how long it takes at that hour of night.Theyd alcohol in them they werent drunk and THEY WERE NOT PLAYIN CHICKEN,The boys didnt even know ciaran was on his way back in the road.To play chicken you need to set it up they didnt.I bet the boys didnt even know it was ciaran theyd crashed into all theyd of seen is the lights of the car coming at them.It wasnt a straight road either the pictures in the paper dont show that theres a dip in the road were ciaran was coming from and its possible not to see a car till the last minute,which as what was told at the inquest resulted in evasive action from the red golf.

Dan Sullivan said...

Lads, you're the ones insisting on bring up whether they were playing chicken or not. I said it didn't matter. So why are you still bringing it up?

How far is "only up the road?" exactly?

Drove with a few pints on them? Oh sure that's fine so. Let's not bother with an alcohol limit at all so.

A key thing that you bring up is the condition of the road at that point. The speed limit is 80kph, that is the maximum speed allowed. Maximum! If it is wet or dark or something else like leaves on the road or low hanging trees would impact your view or control or responses you should be travelling more slowly. Not faster which these lads were. You drive to match the conditions.

Anonymous said...

Ya seem to write ur blog with a smug look on your face like you know it all.Who are you tryin to get at exactly.The boys are dead.Must be the family and friends of the deceased.Do you get some kind of satisfaction in adding pain to broken hearted people.I'll liken it to some1 slipping and falling off a bridge and everybody saying afterwards it was suicide.If it was chicken we'd accept it was chicken but it wasn't its horrible you saying it was.Where dya think the boys were from ya wouldnt even see that kinda carry on in ballymun let alone a little village and certainly not by the boys.In fact id never even heard of chicken till the accident happened I'm pretty sure some of the boys hadnt either.

Anonymous said...

From the centre of the village to where the accident happened is half a mile.Its still in threemilehouse which isnt very big at all.Dermot was a couple of mouthfuls of a pint over the limit.He'd the same amount of alcohol as some1 goin to mass on a sunday after bein out the night before.The cars went in the air the wheels spun its not certain that was exactly the speed it can only be estimated.It was raining that night as well,They werent that much above the speed limit who hasnt ever done it.Not sayin its ok its just what people do

Anonymous said...

You’re a muppet Dan, a big fat ugly muppet!

You seem to like to twist the facts so they sound as bad as possible. The people that knew these guy's knew they were good lads and are devastated by their loss. What are you trying to achieve? Would you post the same 'shit' if it happened to a loved one of yours?

As I mentioned above, you’re good at twisting the facts and inflicting pain on others. As such could you not either have omitted your picture or put up one of a half decent looking lad - think of the poor people looking at that monstrosity? Maybe that's what’s wrong with you jealous of these good-looking lads!

Dan Sullivan said...

For those suggesting I take my picture down. You can't have much respect for the deceased if that is how you choose to go about representing them. And coming from folks that won't come out of the shadows, you're just going to have to put up with it unless you decide to grow a pair.

So far the argument seems to be that they were nice lads who weren't driving that fast at all, hadn't had all that much to drink, and weren't going that far. So why not take the risk? And none of those posting here appear to have learned anything from the consequences.

And why do you all keep bringing up that they were not playing chicken, I didn't say they were and in fact I said it didn't matter whether they were or not. But sure since you've probably been doing the rounds in the net refuting without reading anything why should I be surprised.

Who am I trying to get at? Lads who think that driving too fast in poor conditions while over the limit is ok, and that sure nothing will happen to them. The way you're talking you'd swear that if they were doing 60kph and were sober they would still have hit each other and everyone would still be dead.

You know good people make mistakes too. It does not stop them from having been good people. And it doesn't stop what they did from being mistakes.

Anonymous said...

I've heard it all now...the driver was in France for a while? He was driving on roads he had known all his life, but he'd been in France????? His windows were steamed up???? That's what lights are for. What happened to the fact that Thornton owned both cars? That he had left Hagan back to his house to collect the second one and so would've know it was him coming towards him. That they were both speeding?
There was another inquest yesterday in Dundalk. A young couple driving a BMW, the driver drunk, didn't take a bend and spun out of control killing both of them. The families' theory? It was the fault of the cops who had seen them drive by at high speed and followed them.
What is it with the border counties and driving? You get into a car drunk, you kill a bunch of people, but it's an act of God or someone's else's fault? Let's just have a smidgen of personal responsibility. There's a thing called contributory negligence. Do the people from Monaghan think that these drivers contributed in ANY way to their deaths and the deaths of their passengers? C'mon, give us an answer. ANYTHING the drivers might have done? Drink, speed? If not, what the hell does that mean? Will we just abandon all law, and everyone is entitled to drive whatever way they want? Gay Byrne is wasting his time if this is the attitude.

Anonymous said...

To that last anonymous dermot never left ciaran at the house he left him at a garage the other side of the village and ciaran had went on out to the house before th boys.

Anonymous said...

To that last anonymous dermot never left ciaran at the house he left him at a garage the other side of the village and ciaran had went on out to the house before th boys.

Anonymous said...

Theres no1 blaming anyone for the crash theres no1 blaming the guards.Cant stand people coming on with an attitude fighting basically that the boys should be dead.Did you never hear of rest in peace.Suppose that person who brought up sumtin bout an inquest in Dundalk?Are ya tryin to liken the boys to the knackers from there with their cruises???.seen the documentary on them drivin round like maniacs and coming on TV the boys were nothin like that.

The Busy Engineer said...

I think Dan is Making a valid point and the attitude of some of the Anonymous posters in relation to drink driving is appaling.
The fact of the matter is that the boys had been drinking one was nearly twice the limit the other was nearly three times the limit and they crashed into one another while speeding on a country road.

I'm sure that the attitude that "Sure they weren't going far and what else were they supposed to do" Is great consolation to the families of the dead.
If they weren't going far they could have walked.
The attitude of the men driving these cars and the other anonymous posters here leads me to the conclusion that the border counties seem to be populated with a really ignorant type of hick.
The fact that the Anonymouses don't seem to have learned that drinking and driving and speeding on country roads in bad conditions leads to deaths then there's no hope for them.

Anonymous said...

FYI Mr Busy Ignorant Engineer there was a man knocked down and killed on the same road about a year ago while walking home from the pub! If you knew the road at all the last thing you would suggest is to walk it.

The Busy Engineer said...

I suppose you would suggest to drive drunk and kill a bunch of people in two cars?

carol said...

What do you tink ur goin to achieve by these blogs???Stop an accident in the future???NO because you wont.youve nothin else to do only try shit stir and speculate.Try add extra grief to those already grieving.You should be ashamed of yourself and those sayin bad things about the boys go get a life your pathetic

Dan Sullivan said...

Who is doing the speculating here? The anonymous person with their suggestion of steamed up windows as the cause of the crash? Or me reporting how fast they were going and what their blood alcohol level was?

And how does discussing this bring further grief to someone unless they go looking for this blog? I'm not delivering it to anyone's door. You're here like most of the other anonymous contributors because you saw this on Damien Blakes blog. And evidently came looking to justify your own behaviour and support for recklessness on the road. When I spoke of society I was talking about you, you've contributed to this crash and you're contributing to more every day that you fail to recognise that drivers need to drive to suit the conditions of the road and not to suit themselves. You're using the grief of others to hide behind.

And who said anything "bad" about the deceased? Like I've already said they made bad choices that doesn't make them bad people but it still remains that they were bad choices. You on the other hand think their choices were perfectly OK and that it was Alien SpaceBats that are responsible. This - for anyone else reading this - is why road deaths are having no effect on the mindset of some folks in some regions.

Anonymous said...

The point of pointing out that those men died as a result of their own behaviour is that perhaps in another rural county some other eejit might just pause before he gets into his car with drink taken and several passengers. The people commenting on this site who object to the facts simply being stated should either ignore it or ask other young men not to do to their families what Thornton and Hagan have done to theirs. And by the way, this crash has only been singled out by the unbelievably obviousness of the appalling driving. This happens all the time and the inquests are never reported. Inquests should be given the same headlines as the crashes and everyone should know what causes crashes - not dips in the road - but stupid driving. Maybe we'll learn something and maybe lives will be saved.

mgb said...

Indeed, if we were to analyse road accidents based on the outcome of inquests or other legal investigation, rather than on the reporting of accidents, it could have a lot of knock on effects - on the test, driver training and awareness, actual allocation of blame (as opposed to crap like "accident involving young male"), and on insurance.

Dan Sullivan said...

Where have all the anonymous posters gone? mgb, you're right as I said in my original post where is the focus on the inquests which is where we get explanations. For all we know some crashes that involve a young male driver may have involved an older driver who was the cause of the accident but the media don't report that because they do not focus on the inquests. It's all about the twisted metal and blood where the mainstream media is concerned.

Eoin Brazil said...

I can't believe the crap from some of the anonymous posters on this issue.

The facts as portrayed are crystal clear, when they're boiled down to the nuts and bolts. Don't ever ever drink and drive. Can it be any simpler ? If road conditions are bad, you drive slower and you drive within the limits of the law.

I can't see the problem with all these anonymous posters have with designating a driver as I do with my mates when we go out and yes that means one of us has soft drinks for the night but we get home safely. The tone of the majority of the anonymous posters seems to indicate that it was a bizarre set of circumstances and that it is actually perfectly reasonable to drink and drive! Lads, as Dan said grow a pair and grow up!

Anonymous said...

no one said its ok to drink and drive.The boys made a mistake that night.They wouldnt do it again if they had the chance and neither will any one else around monaghan I doubt.No ones disputing the fact that the boys were drinkin and driving we all know that but what the hell has it got to do with the rest of Ireland.The boys are dead let their families grieve and don't be talking about them.It was a hard lesson they learned that night just let them rest in peace.Instead of bad mouthing them.

Anonymous said...

This accident could have happened anywhere around the country by young boys but in all fairness it wasnt just drink that lead to the accident the boys were hardly loaded now.1person crossed into the wrong lane ya cant blame anyone in the other car for that.All four of them now dead.Even if the driver of the red car had not been drinkin they would still have been killed because of this.It was a sad accident as far as Im concerned and my heart goes out to all concerned.

Anonymous said...

To Eoin Brazil your 29 them boys were only 19,20 and 21 I'm sure the last thing on their mind was being killed.In theory a designated driver is a good idea but at that age group its not on the agenda for most people.

Dan Sullivan said...

anon, 5.25am, the point is that we should be making efforts to get designated drivers on people's agendas. And it almost seems like the more recent anons are trying to shift the blame to the single occupant car who was more over the limit compared to the driver of the other car that was speeding more.

Doing 125 kph in a 80 kph zone at night on what the anonymous contributors here have described as a dangerous section of road was reckless behaviour.

And 201mg is loaded up. The sad fact is those lads didn't learn any lesson that night since they aren't in a position to learn any lessons. It is the living that need to learn the lessons and it doesn't sound like most of the anonymous contributors who have come here are looking to learn anything. As for it could have happened anywhere that is not entirely true. The border counties tend to have a much higher rate of road deaths that other counties.

Anonymous said...

I think most of the anonymous people that have came here have learned a lesson and are just tryin to defend their friends who they've lost.Not their behaviour but their names bein put up named and shamed

Anonymous said...

Great discussion. I hope these little idiots who "go up the road" with drink on board think twice. As for those muppets who speed around country roads in their souped up cars... don't get me started.

Anonymous said...

tell ya sumtin dan, im from monaghan, drive round the roads in my suped up cars and so on, i knew most of the fellas and i think your just talkin shit, it was a freak unfortunate accident and i dont think you should be talkin about it unless you know the fellas and the facts, more people were affected than them!

Dan Sullivan said...

Anonymous, if there were some facts that were wrong feel free to point them out. You didn't so I believe there weren't any and I've cited also sources from the coroner's court. So don't come back with you heard from someone.

If you knew those lads and reckon that neither speed nor excess alcohol had any major barring on this situation then I think you're just trying to justify your own irresponsible behaviour.

I think it should be obvious that more than the immediate victims were affected by this which is all the more reason to try and ensure that it doesn't happen again. something you in your "suped up cars" and posting here are doing nothing to prevent.

pamela mc quillan said...

if i had of known this was set up when it was about the threemile house road accident u would of had alot to hear from me.my brother was in that accident who had a young daughter do u think he went out that nyt knowing he was goin to die.do u tink every time u step foot out of a pub should i get into this car am i gonna die tonyt no i some how i dont tink you would. i dont appreciate you mouhin about it over the internet bout5 fellas you dont no so go and find another hobby. youll have the right t mouth when it hits your own doorstep nd for your own sake i hope it never does the best thing you could do is get rid of this page of the internet. how pathetic are you havin a debate bout five young fellas who lost their lifes in a tragedy.youve little t be at have you any respect for the deceased go and mouth pedifiles nd murderes nd people that are causing harm not five young lads that went out for the nyts craic not meaning any harm nd as for speed nd drinkin i think they got enough punishment there dead remember so do yourself a favour nd back off...

Dan Sullivan said...

Pauline, if any of the facts given at the inquest and which I repeated are incorrect you are more than welcome to let us know. The five lads died because the guys driving were going too fast for the road conditions and they were substantially over the alcohol limit. I can appreciate that immediate family members may feel otherwise but I believe that while we as a nation continue to treat such incidents as simply 'happenings' that occur for no reason at all when in truth they were completely avoidable more and people will die needlessly. I make no apology for the fact that my primary concern is with the living. I honestly can’t see how anyone could claim that driving while drunk at speed was not meaning any harm. It was the actions of the drivers caused the deaths of the others. It was reckless and wrong. I’ve never suggested they deserved to die as punishment. They didn’t, but nor were they blameless. I can’t get away from the impression that some people commenting here prefer to focus on what people have written after the fact rather on what actually happened. I don’t blame people for being angry and upset, but making me the focus of your anger solves nothing.

Anonymous said...

Before I give my opinion on this piece let me say that I am from Monaghan and was in the same class and knew 2 of the 5 victims.

I couldn't agree more with Daniel's opinion. The lads were drinking and speeding and this is what caused the accident. I also believe that they were playing chicken based on the ridiculous speeds they were driving at, and the straightness of the road.

People who come on saying stuff like 'they only had a few' are just kidding themselves. Alcohol affects your driving simple as that. People in Ireland seem to have the opinion that driving after a few pints is alright when its not. Unless this opinion changes we will continue to have such a large number of deaths on our roads.

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Sennakesavan said...

I don't know why these accidents are happening. If they drived carefully i hope it might not happen.
Most of the accidents are happening due to OVERSPEED. Life is in our hands.

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