Driver's blood clots led to fatal crash, inquest hears
Undiagnosed blood clots caused a man to pass out and veer his car into the path of an oncoming lorry, killing both him and his wife.
Samuel Rutledge (64) and his wife Doris (63) had been travelling home from a shopping trip in Omagh when the collision occurred around four miles outside the Co Tyrone town in May 2011.
An inquest into their deaths on Wednesday found that Mr Rutledge, the driver of the car, had blacked out because of numerous blood clots in the arteries supplying blood to his lungs.
His silver Nissan Almera drifted on to the opposite side of the road and smashed into an articulated lorry.
Mr Rutledge, a retired farmer, died at the scene from his numerous injuries. His wife died later in the Erne Hospital.
During the inquest their daughter, Eileen Rutledge, described how her father — who had battled depression for years — had been going through a period of ill-health.
He had visited his doctor the day before the crash, but because he had not complained of any leg or chest pain the possibility of deep vein thrombosis had not been explored.
Visibly upset throughout the hearing, Eileen was comforted by her husband Jonny as they heard medical evidence of her parents’ injuries and details of how they died.
Mr and Mrs Rutledge had been travelling along the Baroney Road, between Cookstown and Omagh, when the incident happened just past the junction with the Killyclogher Road.
Witnesses recalled seeing their car “gradually drift into the other lane” as a lorry approached. The Scania lorry could be seen attempting to veer out of the way, but there was not enough time to avoid a collision.
Driver Ivan Flanagan recalled the moment: “I swung on the wheel but it was too late, the impact was happening.”
Crash investigator Damian Coll said the height difference between the two vehicles forced the Nissan under the front of the lorry, creating “deep gouges” in the road and severely damaging the car.
Husband and wife both sustained multiple fatal injuries from the crash.
There was evidence to suggest Mr Rutledge wasn’t wearing his seatbelt.
A post-mortem examination discovered Mr Rutledge had “multiple blood clots” in the arteries supplying blood to his lungs and deep vein thrombosis in his right leg.
Assistant state pathologist for Northern Ireland, Dr James Lyness, said the amount of blood in Mr Rutledge’s chest cavity suggested he was alive at the point of collision, and died from the injuries sustained.
Coroner Suzanne Anderson said she was “satisfied” that the deep vein thrombosis in Mr Rutledge’s leg “led to loss of consciousness and to an inability to control the car which he had been driving”.
Speaking after the inquest, Eileen said she was happy with the verdict and would cherish happy memories of her parents. “They were always together,” she said. Eileen and her husband added they would keep lorry driver Ivan Flanagan in their thoughts. “He has been there for us and we’ve been there for him,” she said.