An inquest has heard how three young men embarked on a cocaine, Valium and alcohol binge across Strabane before a car crash that left one of them dead. Robert ‘Bobby’ Rodgers (21) of 26 Colehill, Newtowncunningham, was killed at Murlog, Lifford, on May 6, 2012 when the car his friend had bought for €175 crashed. The driver, Eunan McBrearty of Woodthorpe, Newtowncunningham, was jailed for three and a half years and banned from driving for 20 years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing the death.
Two lines of cocaine
Giving evidence to the Coroner’s Court one of the three friends, Paul Carlin, said he had gone to his girlfriend Anne Marie Rodgers’ house in Newtown at 10.30pm the previous night. She is a sister of the deceased. He said he brought tins of Carlsberg and two bottles of wine. Later McBrearty and Mr Rodgers arrived, before leaving to purchase cans of Tennents.
When they returned all three consumed two lines of cocaine each in the house as well as Valium tablets. They left the house at around 2am in a car driven by McBrearty which he said he had purchased for €175 earlier in the evening.
Mr Carlin said he returned to Ms Rodgers house at 9am the next morning before all three left in McBrearty’s car to go to a pub in Carrigans. The pub was closed and they stopped at the Foyle View filling station. They continued on to Strabane, first calling to the ‘gay bar’ which was also closed before going to another pub called The Classic.
“We had a few pints there before going on to Joe’s bar where we drank a few halves. I remember a man in The Classic asking us ‘do you not think you have had enough to drink’. We then went to the gay bar but were refused entry because we were too drunk,” Mr Carlin said.
A short time later, himself and McBrearty consumed “two or three” Valium tablets each while parked at the Canal Basin in Strabane. From there they went to Carlin’s family home in Lifford where his mother was “going mad” because they were so drunk. They left to drive back to Newtowncunningham – McBrearty was driving, Mr Rodgers was in the front passenger seat and Mr Carlin was sitting behind him.
He said the next thing he remembered was a bang and that he was lying on the road.
McBrearty, who was brought to the court from prison, told the court they “drank all night” and the only thing he remembers was waking up in hospital. He said he had no insurance for the car and was driving while disqualified at the time.
Anne Marie Rodgers told the court she received a call from her ex-boyfriend at around 12.30pm on the day in question to say he had met the three men at a filling station and was worried as they were all drunk. He rang back a short time later to say that a car fitting the description of the one they were travelling in was involved in a crash outside Lifford.
Sergeant Maurice Doyle said he received a report of a crash at Murlog at around 1.35pm and went to the scene where he saw an Opel Astra partially blocking one lane on the road. Dr Paul Armstrong pronounced Mr Rodgers dead at 2.30pm. Retired Garda Scenes of Crime investigator John McFadden said that all three men were thrown from the vehicle. He estimated that the fastest speed that a vehicle could have safely negotiated the bend was 125kph and concluded that the driver had failed to take the bend. He said driving and road conditions were perfect and that the brakes on the car were defective.
Summarising the post mortem report the coroner, Dr Denis McCauley, said Mr Rodgers died instantly as a result of a number of injuries, including a large cut to the back of his head, internal bleeding and a tear to the liver. He noted that the results of toxicology test went along with what Mr Carlin gave in evidence. However he said there were no traces of cocaine in Mr Rodgers’ system.
The jury returned a majority verdict of death due to severe head injuries as a result of a road traffic incident. Dr McCauley said he was on duty with NowDoc on the day in question and was called to the scene of the crash.
“It is very sad when three friends go out and only two come back. The case is very tragic and sad and Bobby was just a passenger in the car.”
Strabane Chronicle/June 19, 2016
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