A Tipperary farmer broke down Wednesday telling the inquest into his son’s death after a fall from a quad bike that it was the first time his son had driven the vehicle without wearing a helmet.
Patrick McKeogh, (16), fell from the quad bike as he was retrieving cattle that had broken loose from the family’s dairy farm, at Inchadrinagh, Ballina, Co Tipperary, early on the morning of June 28th, 2021.
A jury at Limerick Coroner’s Court recorded a verdict of “accidental death” at Kilmallock courthouse.
Coroner John McNamara noted that it appeared that if the boy had been wearing a helmet, it may have “assisted” in preventing his death.
The inquest heard that it was likely the quad hit a bump on a gravel road separating two fields which caused the boy to be thrown from the vehicle and on to his head.
Patrick McKeogh suffered a catastrophic brain injury in the impact and he died from his injuries at University Hospital Limerick two days later.
Martin McKeogh, the boy’s father, broke down and stated in court: “In case you think he (Patrick) was careless, he wasn’t; he had a helmet, he always wore it, and that was the only time he didn’t wear it.”
Coroner John McNamara told Martin McKeogh his son’s death was “a tragic accident, and no one is at fault”.
“On another day he would have hit that bump and continued on, and none of us would be talking about it,” added the coroner.
Olive Higgins, an inspector with the Health and Safety Authority, which investigates fatal workplace accidents, and who responded to the scene, said legislation was due to be passed in November this year making quad bike driver training and the wearing of helmets mandatory.
Martin McKeogh said he got up at 4.45am to discover cattle had got loose from their land and they were roaming towards a public road near their farm.
At 5.30am Mr McKeogh alerted two of his son’s, Patrick and Adam, and they rushed to help him retrieve the livestock.
At 6am, Martin McKeogh and his son Adam discovered Patrick’s lifeless body face down on the ground halfway between a dirt track and a field. Patrick McKeogh had blood on his face, no pulse, and he was not breathing.
Mr McKeogh immediately began CPR on his son’s body, an ambulance was called and arrived within seven minutes, and paramedics transferred Patrick McKeogh to University Hospital Limerick after paramedics noted he had a pulse, however he passed away at UHL two days later.
“It appears he was traveling on a dirt track and left the road after encountering a bump in the road, and he was not wearing a helmet at the time,” Ms Higgins told the inquest.
Garda Eamonn Raleigh, PSV Inspector, Thurles Garda Station, and retired Garda Sergeant and Forensic Collision Inspector, Frank Lavin, each gave evidence that they examined the quad bike and found it was in good condition.
However the two Garda witnesses said they discovered that the tyre pressure on the quad had “exceeded” that of the level recommended by the manufacture.
Garda Raleigh said this would have “greatly effected the steering” on the quad.
Mr Lavin, said he conducted a “fingertip” examination of the scene and he found “no evidence” that the quad’s breaks had been applied. He said he did not believe speed was a factor in the fatal accident.
Mr Lavin said that as the tyres were “overinflated” this made for a “more uncomfortable ride” and would have “reduced the effectiveness of the quad’s suspension”.
He said this combined with the “rough terrain” may have caused “giddiness” in the vehicle’s performance.
The coroner told the hearing: “As we know farms can be dangerous places but this wasn’t a situation where he was doing anything that I would consider to be out of the ordinary, it is just a terrible tragic accident and that’s all we can ascribe to it.”
Mr McNamara expressed his condolences to the McKeogh family, as did Garda Inspector Gary Thompson, Bruff Garda Station, who said Patrick McKeogh was a “young boy” who died “diligently working for his family and doing the right thing”.