Ninety-four-year-old Peggy Morrissey died after her car crashed into a field “on a very bad night storm-wise” while she was en route to the safety of her son, RTE broadcaster, Marty Morrissey, an inquest has heard.
At the County Clare Coroner’s court in Kilrush, Marty Morrissey stated that he agreed with his mother, Peggy that she would stay with him at the Old Ground hotel in Ennis on the night of December 6 last year as Storm Barra was due to hit the west coast of Clare the following day.
In a deposition, Mr Morrissey told the coroner’s court that he last spoke to Peggy at 11.36pm on December 6 by phone before she set off in her Silver Renault Clio and the two arranged that they would meet at the village of Inagh before journeying onto Ennis.
However, within an hour at 12.35am, Mr Morrissey was in a field in west Clare identifying his mother’s body to the emergency services.
In his deposition read out by Supt John Ryan, Mr Morrissey said that at 5pm on December 6, Peggy was at her home in Mullagh “and she rang me and told me that Storm Barra was due to hit the west coast of Ireland on December 7”.
The west Clare man said: “I told my Mum that I would watch the 6 o’clock news and see what the story was. After watching the news, it was apparent that there was a red alert for a number of counties including Clare.”
He said, “I was worried that there would be structural damage done and that electricity would go out in the house. My mother is 94-years-old and living on her own.
“I spoke to her again after the news and asked would she stay with a neighbour. She didn’t want to stay with anyone. I was aware that the Armada hotel was closed and I rang the Bellrbidge and they were not taking any guests.
“I asked my mother would she stay with me in the Old Ground hotel and she said that she would love that as it is right across the road from the Cathedral and she could go to mass the following morning.
“I told her I would come and collect her. She said that she would take her own car and she would go home after the storm had abated. At 11.36pm I spoke to my mum on the phone.
“She was still at home at this time and she said was leaving now and that would meet me in Inagh. I got to Inagh and there was no sign of her. I rang her phone but there was no answer. I kept driving in the direction that my Mum had been travelling in.
“I didn’t come across her on the way. When I got near the Bellbridge, I noticed blue lights. I saw that my Mum’s car was in a field. I told Gardai and the paramedics that it was my Mum’s car.
“I saw my Mum in the car and the paramedics and the Gardai were there. I identified my mother to Garda Kennelly at 12.35am on December 7.”
The first person on the scene was a local man, Pat Greene.
Mr Greene told the coroner’s court that before midnight he received a call from a relative to say that there was a loud bang out in the field next to the house. Mr Greene said, “Cars regularly go into the field.”
He said, “I can see the field from my house and I looked out the bedroom window and I could see indicators flashing in the field.”
Mr Greene drove up to the location and walked into the field with his torch. He said, “I couldn’t see anyone in the driver’s seat. I was happy that I saw that – I assumed that the driver had got out and left.”
However, on a closer look, Mr Greene could see that there was a person inside and he immediately phoned 999 and within one minute Gardai arrived.
Mr Greene said that he arrived at the field just after midnight and he phoned 999 at 12.15am.
Garda Sean Kelly of Ennistymon Garda Station told the inquest that he received a call to go to Annagh, Miltown Malbay where there was a report of a road traffic collision.
Garda Kelly said that on arrival there was a vehicle in a field on a bend. He said that there is no public lighting in the area and there was a weather warning and weather conditions got worse as the night went on
His colleague, Garda David Kennelly also attended the scene and told the coroner’s court that there was a female unresponsive in the car.
Garda Kennelly said that he removed Peggy Morrissey’s body from the car and Marty Morrissey arrived at the scene and identified his mother to Gardai.
Advanced Paramedic, Linda O’Rourke was also at the scene and certified Mrs Morrissey’s death at 1am. She said: “I spoke to the son of the deceased and communicated with him and then left the scene.”
County Coroner, Isobel O’Dea told the court that a report by a collision investigator found that speed was not a factor in the fatal accident and the car was in good mechanical condition.
Ms O’Dea stated that the post mortem found that the injuries sustained were consistent with being in a road traffic accident.
Delivering her verdict, Ms O’Dea said that she found that Peggy Morrissey died on December 7th last and the cause of death was severe chest injuries consistent with being involved in a road traffic accident.
Ms O’Dea said, “I would like to pass my sympathies to you Mr Morrissey on your Mum’s passing. I knew her. She was a lady, a great character and a great age.
She said: “It doesn’t take from the sadness of her passing. I would like to acknowledge the work of the Gardai and the ambulance personnel and everyone involved in that night. It was a very bad night storm wise.”
Supt John Ryan extended sympathy to Mr Morrissey on behalf of himself and the Gardai. He said: “I know from the members who were there on the night that it was a difficult night.”
Mr Morrissey declined to comment after the inquest when approached for comment.