Ballymoney woman died in horrific road smash: Inquest

A BROUGHSHANE motorist was over the drink-drive limit when he was involved in a crash in which he and a Ballymoney woman were killed, an inquest has heard.

Monday, 1st March 2010, 9:21 am
Updated Monday, 1st March 2010, 11:01 am

Alastair John Armstrong (45), of Knowehead Road, had driven the wrong way along the Crankill Road dual carraigeway before having a head-on collision with another vehicle.

The front seat passenger in the other car, Marjorie Joan Kerr (48), of Greenhill Drive, Ballymoney also died from injuries she sustained in the collision, which occurred on the brow of a hill on a single lane carriageway at Frosses Road in the early hours of December 1, 2007.

A Coroner's Court in Ballymena heard that Mr Armstrong had earlier left the Fort Royal Inn, around two miles from the scene of the collision, and had turned right on exiting the premises, against the flow of the traffic.

A police officer said that in the course of their investigations, it had been established that Mr Armstrong would have regularly travelled home via the nearby Springmount Road but at the time of the accident, that road was closed due to roadworks.

Mr Armstrong's wife Lorraine told the court that her husband had been "in great form" as he left the house earlier that evening to attend a wedding party in Galgorm.

She said her husband would have been familiar with the roads around the scene of the accident, adding: "He knew that area like the back of his hand."

Robert Booth, a guest at the wedding party, said he had said goodnight to Mr Armstrong around 1am, while Kieran McLaughlin, a doorman at the Fort Royal - who described Mr Armstrong as a "quiet big man" who was a "regular" - said he had seen the deceased on the premises with a smallish glass in his hand.

David Telford, a lorry driver, told in a statement of how he had met Mr Armstrong's Mazda on the wrong side of the dual carraigeway and had to swerve to avoid the car, which continued onwards in the direction of Ballymoney.

Shauna Small, who had attended a dance in the Fort Royal along with three other woman, told how she was driving towards Ballymoney on the correct side of the dual carriageway when she became aware of car headlights in her driver's mirror. She could not understand where these lights came from as there were no cars behind her but she then realised that they were coming from a car travelling in the same direction as her but on the other side of the central reservation and this car went past the witness's vehicle "flying".

As the dual carriageway merged into single lane carriageway, Mr Armstrong's car continued to drive on the wrong side of the white line and a head-on collision with a Citroen Xsara coming the opposite direction occurred on the crest of the hill.

Ms Small's car was the first vehicle on the scene after the collision and she told how she spoke to Mrs Kerr, who complained of abdominal pain.

Another occupant of Ms Small's car, Bernie Johnston, said in her statement that Mrs Kerr had asked the witness to take off her seatbelt and she started to turn herself to get her feet out of the car. She tried to get up and said she felt sick and couldn't breathe.

Despite receiving treatment, Mr Armstrong and Mrs Kerr both died at the scene, while Mr Kerr, who had been driving the Xsara, was taken to hospital with multiple injuries.

A police officer said that shortly after Mrs Kerr's passing her mobile phone had received a call from her daughter, who had been awaiting her parents picking her up.

State Pathologist Dr Jack Crane found that Mrs Kerr's death had been from a right haemothorax due to multiple rib fractures. She had sustained fractures to three left ribs and five right ribs and a laceration of the spleen, all of which had resulted in considerable bleeding into her right chest cavity.

Mr Armstrong sustained a fractured breastbone, a total of 11 fractured ribs and a laceration of his heart and heart sac, causing massive bleeding into his left chest, along with a fracture of his right knee.

The pathologist's report also revealed that Mr Armstrong had some alcohol in his system, with a reading of 123 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 80/100,

Lindsay McCormick, a forensic scientist, said that Mr Armstrong had not been wearing a seatbelt.

Coroner Joanne Donnelly, in her findings, said that the collision had taken place on the crest of a hill, giving Mr Kerr "no opportunity to take any evasive action".

She said that Mr Armstrong's "alcohol intoxication...would have had a detrimental effect on his ability to drive safely. His judgement and concentration would have been adversely affected," added Ms Donnelly.

The Coroner concluded by expressing her condolences to both families on their "tragic and premature loss".