Friday, 5 February 2010

John Donnan Inquest - Safety Revelations

Motorcycle Real Road Racing Blog by Barbiegirl Northern Ireland

One of these days, somebody just might consider the safety of the riders and spectators at motorcycle road races here in Northern Ireland. One has to wonder how some of the 'officials', allegedly in control of these events, manage to sleep at night.

The revelations at the January inquest of the extremely popular Ardglass motorcycle road racer John Donnan, were nothing short of incredulous - sickeningly so.

The tragic death of the motorcyclist who was sent hurtling through the air at approximately 100mph during a real road racing event, the Tandragee 100 in Northern Ireland, was an accident waiting to happen, an inquest heard.

Mr Michael Maxwell, barrister for the family of John Donnan, said: "Far from being a freak accident, this was an accident waiting to happen."

Held at Belfast Coroner's Court, the inquest heard claims that one of the Motorcycle Union of Ireland - Ulster Centre officials in charge of safety at the Tandragee 100 event had allegedly ignored warnings that the chicane, constructed of straw bales and sand bags, was unsafe and that more barriers might have saved his life.

The very popular rider, from Ardglass, in County Down, was catapulted through the air, and into a tree, the impact of which fractured his skull, this after a rider in front of him had clipped the straw bale constructed chicane, knocking it into his path a split second before the tragic incident in May 2007. The makeshift straw bale chicane, allegedly designed to slow the speed of the riders at a particular part of the course, instead helped cause the fatal crash of the 42-year-old.

Senior coroner John Leckey said: "We are just approaching that period of the year when motorcycle road race events are being held and I am concerned that, if you like, a hard look should be taken at the safety issues in all the circuits and as I said it is a huge burden for the amateur enthusiast to carry"

Safety at Northern Ireland motorcycle races needs to be beefed up, he said.

During the course of the inquest, video footage of the 'freak accident' shown in court was surely the most sickening thing anyone would ever want to witness during their lifetime.

Mr Leckey, the senior coroner also then went on to question why the white-painted bales, which were on the actual road and allegedly designed to slow racers down on the approach to a corner, were easily dislodged, and suggested more safety barriers might have saved the life of John Donnan.

"We have reached a situation" he said "where we have these totally professional, highly financed teams and they are operating in an environment that is set up by enthusiasts and amateurs without any, it seems to me, professional guidance"

His comments regarding professional guidance were surely justified as James Irwin, chief marshal at the course, claimed in his evidence, he had warned the safety officers of the danger after seeing another rider, hit one of the same bales and break a leg.

He also alleged he had not been allowed to express his concerns at a meeting and said adjusting the chicane slightly could have prevented the earlier rider from dislodging it and saved Mr Donnan's life.

Richard Nesbitt, alleged convenor of the road inspection committee for looking after competitors' and spectators' safety for the Motorcycle Union of Ireland Ulster centre, said he could not remember receiving any such warning from Mr Irwin and claimed there was nothing more stable available in 2007.

"I can't remember the man saying anything sensible other than nattering away in my ear. If someone is constantly coming at you it is easier just to ignore them," he said.

Tony Harvey, incident officer for the Motorcycle Union of Ireland Ulster centre, who had allegedly conducted a review, said "It could only be described as a freak accident and a risk competitors accept in the pursuit of their chosen sport"

And these people are in charge of our safety!

It was, said Senior Coroner John Leckey, by the grace of God that the inquest was not dealing with multiple fatalities.

Far to many of us have lost loved ones to this sport, and have to watch other dear friends and loved ones live their lives as cripples, in constant agony. Who cares about them after the event? Nobody that I’m aware off.

Save Our Sport From Evil

©2010 Motorcycle RealRoadRacing Blog by Barbiegirl Northern Ireland

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