A man who died after falling from a moving car had been standing on the ledge of the opened passenger’s door just moments before it took off, the Galway West Coronor’s Court was told last week.
Friends spoke of how they had been unaware that Peter Sharkey had still been standing on the passenger door when the car took off sending him sailing into the pitch dark night. Using the car headlights and the light from their mobile phones the friends managed to locate the then 25-year-old who was found lying on his side on the grass verge. Despite their efforts Mr Sharkey, originally from Boheroe, Elphin, Roscommon, was declared brain cell dead in hospital almost two days later.
The coroner’s court heard last Thursday that Mr Sharkey, who at the time had been living at Gort Na Corribe, Headford Road, had been interested in buying a Ford Fiesta from a friend. On November 27, 2006, Mr Sharkey arrived at the house of Andrew Casey in Gurraun, Oranmore, at around 9.20pm. Along with friends they tried to tow-start the Ford Fiesta. According to his deposition, Mr Casey said that he had been sitting in the second car with Keith Parsons and talking to Mr Sharkey. He stressed that he didn’t know at the time that Mr Sharkey had been standing on the ledge of the passenger door because it was “pitch black”.
“I moved off when someone said ‘f**king hell, Sharkey’. I heard a bang and looked in my rear view mirror but didn’t see anything. I shone the headlights on Peter and got out. Peter was moaning and struggling for breath. There was blood coming from his mouth and his nose was broken. He was lying on the grass verge,” said Mr Casey.
Mr Parsons’ deposition also confirmed that Mr Sharkey had been standing on the ledge of the passenger door and was holding onto the roof. “I thought he jumped, that he was play-acting. We walked down the road and could hear heavy breathing. We used the light from our mobile phone and he was lying on his side in the grass. Peter was moving his upper body and hands but he didn’t respond to us,” said Mr Parsons who stressed that none of them, including Mr Sharkey, had taken any drink.
Lifeline ambulance service technician Jenny McCabe said that a call was received at 9.45pm regarding a man who had fallen out of a moving car. When she arrived at the scene at 9.55pm she found Mr Sharkey lying on his side with a jumper supported his head and he was unresponsive.
When questioned by the coronor Dr Ciarán McLoughlin, forensic traffic collisions engineer, Sgt Seamus O’Regan, said there were numerous stones scattered on the grass verge and that it was very likely that a person falling would be in contact with these stones. Examinations carried out by the Scenes of Crime Unit found that rub marks were streaked across the roof of the car and were made by someone’s fingers.
The coronor was also told that Mr Sharkey had suffered severe head injuries and that brain stem tests were carried out. On November 29, 2006, at 12.30pm Mr Sharkey was declared brain dead and it was decided to switch off the monitors and ventilators. A post-mortem was carried out the following day and it confirmed that the cause of death had been an acute traumatic injury to the upper spinal cord and brain stem. The secondary cause of death had been a haemorrhage in the brain within a confined space forcing the brain down into the base of the skull. The jury were agreeable with the verdict of the cause of death.