A series of recommendations to increase safety at motorcycle races were adopted by a jury at an inquest in Navan last week into the death of a 32-year-old rider in an event at the 2009 Kells Motorcycle Road Races.
Padraig Campbell, an Athlone native living in Moate, Co Westmeath, died of multiple injuries after crashing during a practice lap for the 400cc support event at the Adelaide International Kells Road Races that year.
The jury said that, among the recommendations, a qualified safety officer be appointed for all such high-risk events to ensure that a proper risk assessment has been carried out and that proper safety measures be put in place.
Pathologist Dr Muna Sabah, who carried out a post-mortem on the body of Mr Campbell, concluded that he had died from hypovolemic shock (blood loss) due to severe musculoskeletal and soft tissue injuries following a motorcycle accident.
The inquest, which was attended by Mr Campbell’s family members (who were represented by solicitor Peter Higgins of Regan McEntee & Partners, Trim), and a large number of motorcyclists and club officials, was told that files on the incident had twice been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) but he had recommended that there should be no prosecution.
It was also stated that Gardai had no jurisdiction in the investigation of a road accident held on a stretch of road that had been closed by the local authority under a permit issued by the relevent local authority. Their jurisdiction extends to whether a crime has been committed, the inquest heard.
At the outset, Meath County Coroner John Lacy said that the inquest was not a trial. “Nobody is on trial here. For somebody to be put on trial, that is a matter for the DPP,” he said.
He said that the deceased’s stepmother, Betty Campbell, had submitted a list of recommendations to the inquest “in an effort to ensure that this will not happen again”. He said the recommendations were “very helpful”.
Sergeant Brian Morrissey told the inquest that, at about 5.45pm on 18th July 2009, he had learned that one of the riders involved in the races had sustained injuries. He said that on a straight stretch of road, he found a large crowd gathered, and ambulance and paramedic personnel were present. A man was lying on a stretcher. He notified his superiors, Superintendents Michael Devine and Pat Collins. He spoke to two members of the organising committee and told them he was closing part of the road to take measurements.
He took possession of two motorbikes, that of Padraig Campbell and another rider. He said that a file had been sent to the DPP but that he had decided there should be no prosecution.
In reply to Mr Higgins, he said that when a permit was granted by the local authority to close a stretch of road, that stretch was not considered a public place under the terms of the Road Traffic Act.
He said that his only concern, having taken directions from his superiors, was to see that no “malpractice” had taken place, such as any possible interference with any motorbike. ]]
Lester Ferguson, secretary of Kells and District Motor Racing Club, said that, up to 2009, there had been no fatality at the races. He said a road safety committee made sure the track was safe. On the day, there had been a riders’ briefing before a practice lap.
Within minutes of the practice starting, a red flag was called due to the accident. He said that he had gone to the scene of the accident with Sean Bissett. The medical personnel had done everything they could for Padraig Campbell but “unfortunately he had died”. He told the inquest he had not witnessed the accident itself.
Asked by Mr Higgins whether any safety plans were lodged with the local authority when applying for a road closure, he replied that the health and safety statement was renewed every year. It did not really change, it just had to be updated.
He said he regarded the track as “second to none” and the club had been given a grant for the circuit by Meath Partnership in 2009. The only injury at the races prior to 2009 was a broken collarbone.
The participants had been invited to inspect the track but he did not know whether Padraig Campbell had inspected it. The riders were expected to carry out the inspection before mounting their bikes, he said.
Motorbike racer Andrew O’Brien gave evidence that he had taken part in the warm-up lap.
He said the warm-up was controlled by a 'travelling marshall’ mounted on a motorcycle. The only person allowed to overtake during a warm-up was the marshall. The purpose of a warm-up was to check if the tyres were up to temperature and the condition of the track, including whether there was any oil or substances on the road.
Northern Ireland rider Wayne Hamilton, who took part in the race, said that at a place called O’Hanlon’s Leap, he felt his back wheel locking and he assumed he had had a mechanical failure. He turned around and saw another motorcycle in the air. He said he did not see the rider. He saw two race marshalls waving flags in front of him and he pulled in to a safe part of the road 300-400 yards further along.
Joe Connolly, Clonee, said he regularly attended the Kells event. He was acting as a photographer on the day. He did not see the collision between the two bikes but had seen them joined together. He saw the “blue bike” pulling away twice and hitting a sign.
Dr John Dermot Hynes gave evidence that, following the accident, three doctors and six paramedics worked to try to resuscitate Mr Campbell but at no stage did his condition improve.
He told Mr Higgins that he could not think of any recommendation he could make to improve the course. “It is an extremely safe circuit,” he said.
The coroner said that what caused the motorcycles of Mr Campbell and Mr Hamilton to come together would never be known.
Mr Higgins said that Mrs Campbell had put it to him that, because part of the road was closed, the Gardai were not able to investigate the accident. “That is a matter of concern to her,” he said.
He said that, in fairness to the Campbell family, they were not expressing dissatisfaction with the coroner’s holding of the inquest, or with the Gardai, but with the wider matter of an investigation.
Mr Lacy said he would agree that a sporting accident of this kind seemed to fall between two stools - the Health and Safety Authority could not investigate because it was not a workplace accident, and the Gardai could not intervene because the road was not a public place. Perhaps this was something that required new legislation, he said.
©2010 Motorcycle RealRoadRacing Blog by Barbiegirl Northern Ireland