Rally spectator’s death recalled at inquest

A young woman has revealed how she lost grip of a man’s jumper just a split second before he was struck by a speeding rally car.

Richard O’Donnell, from Strabane,  was killed instantly as he tried to cross a country road during the Donegal International Rally in 2008.

An inquest into the 18 year olds’ death revealed how he had only jumped over a gate and was on a road for two seconds before being struck by the Fiesta SR rally car, which was traveling at speeds of up to 103kph.

Eye-witness Laura Cole had traveled to see the rally with the victim and some other friends.

They found a suitable location in a field in a townland called Ballyare, outside Ramelton on the 11th stage of the rally known as Carnhill.

However after he had watched the first 20 cars dive by, Richard O’Donnell decided he wanted to move to another stage at a different location.

Ms Cole revealed how she followed the victim who jumped over a gate as another friend called to him.

“A marshall blew a whistle and I grabbed Richard by his jumper to stop him going on. But I lost my grip on his jumper, and I heard another friend Gary shouting at him.

Chief medical officer at the rally, Dr Pauric Conneally, attended the victim but said Richard of Jefferson’s Court,  Strabane,  died instantly.

Coroner John Cannon said it appeared the victim was almost across the road and “on dry land” but turned back for some reason.

The jury found in accordance with the Coroner’s direction that death was in accordance with the medical evidence due to a road traffic accident.

A spokesperson for the O’Donnell's asked the organisers of car rallies to assist spectators as much as they can.