Accidental death verdict at Melissa Patterson inquest

THE family of a Castlebar teenager who died in a road-traffic accident have said that they hope her death will not be in vain and that motorists will be more vigilant of pedestrians.

Melissa Patterson of 11 Hollow Grove, Castlebar, was killed when she was struck by a car as she walked along the N60 at Carrownurlaur, Breaffy, on July 30, 2015. The inquest into her death heard that the 18 year old was walking towards Breaffy from Castlebar at approximately 5.08pm when she was hit by a Ford Focus car and catapulted 15 feet through the air.

Ms Patterson, who was unconscious but breathing at the scene, was brought to Mayo University Hospital, but she died from her extensive injuries at 11.26pm.
Speaking on behalf of the family of Ms Patterson, Ms Caroline McLaughlin, BL, described Ms Patterson as a bubbly 18 year old who loved playing football and was an avid accordion player. Her twin sister, Belinda, plays the violin.

Ms McLaughlin thanked the emergency services and the people who assisted Melissa at the scene, saying it was a great comfort to the family that people were there to help her.

“They hope that Melissa’s death is not in vain and that road users are extra vigilant of pedestrians using the roadways,” she said.

The inquest also heard that since Melissa’s death, a number of charity initiatives have taken place in the community in her honour.

The Ford Focus car that struck Ms Patterson was driven by Mary O’Malley (84) of Gortawalla, Newport, who said she did not have a clear recollection of the incident, and that she prays every day for Ms Patterson’s family. She explained that she was travelling from Knock when the accident occurred.

“I remember suddenly seeing a girl when she was very close to me. Actually I thought she was a child. I was panic-stricken and I had to make an instant decision to try to avoid her. I felt panic-stricken. I turned the wheel as fast as I could, thinking that would prevent me from hitting her. I heard a thud and I realised I had hit her as I veered into the fence. I cannot tell you how awful that was.

“I don’t remember anything about the road, whether there was traffic or anything. This day will stay with me forever. My life will never be the same again. I tried so hard to avoid her but I didn’t succeed. I know that what I suffer doesn’t compare to the loss Carmel and her family have to endure. I wish I had that day back again for all of us,” she said.

Aoife Naughton who was travelling behind Mrs O’Malley said they were travelling at approximately 80kmph when the Focus car ‘just drove off to the left’. She said the car hit a pedestrian, sending her 15 feet through the air.

Ms Naughton said that after she landed, the pedestrian was lying face down in a puddle of water and was unconscious with laboured breathing. A nurse came on the scene and assisted her and the emergency services were called.

Garda John Melia, who arrived on the scene, said that when he spoke to Mrs O’Malley she said she did not know what happened and added ‘I must have nodded off’. A roadside breath test proved negative for alcohol.

Dr Fadel Bennani, who performed the postmortem, explained that Ms Patterson suffered a large fracture to the skull as well as bleeding to the abdomen. The cause of death, he said, was multiple injuries, including blunt trauma to the chest and abdomen and a fractured skull.

The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death in accordance with the medical evidence.

Mr Pat O’Connor, Coronor for Mayo, extended his sympathy to Melissa’s family, adding that he could not imagine the anguish they are going through. He also extended his sympathy to Mrs O’Malley for what occurred.

Superintendent Joe McKenna also expressed his sympathy on behalf of An Garda Síochána.

Posted in Mayo News by Anton McNulty, 17 Jan, 2017