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Unlawful death verdict in Redcastle crash 14.10.08

Friends frantically burned seatbelt to free crash victim

A GROUP of friends frantically burned through a car seatbelt with cigarette lighters to free a trapped crash victim, an inquest in Carndonagh has heard.
The inquest into the death of Alice Mullan, 20, in a head-on collision at Ballyargus, Redcastle, in the early hours of March 19, 2005, also heard evidence from beautician Louise Cantwell. Ms. Cantwell, 24, received a three-year suspended sentence and a five-year driving ban in July for dangerous driving causing the deaths of Ms Mullan and Kelly Doherty, 20, who were rear and front seat passengers, respectively, in her white Corsa car. The friends were travelling home to Carndonagh from the Bailey nightclub when the accident happened.
Ms Cantwell described how she had overtaken another friend Patricia Logue's Citroen Saxo and was rounding a bend when she saw the lights of a car up ahead.
Following the impact she was "knocked out for a few seconds" and when she came to, she was outside the car, her legs caught, possibly by a seatbelt. "I called out to the girls but didn't get an answer," she said. She said she noticed a strong smell of petrol before being helped from her car by friends.
The driver of the oncoming car, Rhona Moran, who was driving to her parentsí holiday home in
A memorial marks the spot of the Ballyargus tragedy.
Moville after work in the family pub in Derry around 3.30am, described seeing the headlights of two cars coming around the sweeping bend up ahead of her.
"I wish to say that in my opinion, the two cars were going too fast. They were flying. I expected to see a garda car coming after them. I thought it was maybe a getaway from a robbery," said Ms Moran.
In his deposition, Paul McLaughlin, said he was one of six people travelling in Ms. Logue's Saxo. He described seeing Ms Cantwell's car up ahead do a "full circle" in the road before landing on top of a gravel-filled traffic barrel on the hard shoulder. The car he was travelling in ended up under it, he told the inquest. He said he attended to Ms Mullan who had blood coming from both ears and he "knew she was in a bad state". He discovered Ms Doherty still breathing but lying under the Corsa with her seatbelt still on. He got a lighter and started to burn through the seatbelt to free her. His friends joined him with more lighters and eventually they managed to burn through the belt. They lifted the car to remove Ms Doherty from underneath. Patricia Logue outlined to the inquest how she could find no pulse from Ms Mullan who was pronounced dead at the scene. Ms Doherty died several hours later in hospital.
Donegal coroner Dr John Madden told the jury they must decide whether Ms Mullan's death was accidental, was by misadventure or was unlawful. Following a 15-minute deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of unlawful death brought about by a traffic accident.
In his summing up, Dr Madden revealed he had around 14 road accident deaths still to be heard. This was astounding, he said, for a small geographical location such as Inishowen. He said if young people could see the enormity of the tragedy visited upon families because of road accidents, they might "slow down". "But there is no evidence of this happening," he said, outlining the large number of crash inquests still to be heard in the locality.
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