Belfast Telegraph

Man killed by car after driver passed out was in 'wrong place, wrong time'

By Claire Williamson

The devastated parents of a man who was killed by a car as he walked along a footpath have forgiven the driver.

Speaking after an inquest into the death of 32-year-old Paul McGuigan, his mother and father said they were satisfied with evidence that "appeared to show the driver of the car had passed out" because of heart problems that could cause a person to suddenly fall unconscious.

Father-of-one Mr McGuigan was walking along William Street towards Broughshane Street in Ballymena at around 10.15 am on Sunday, September 16, 2012, when tragedy struck.

He had slept in and was headed to his parent's house to see his daughter, Aoife, when a Range Rover mounted the footpath, travelled some distance, then hit him a lamp post and a wall.

The driver, Patrick Blair, said he suffered a blackout and had no memory of the accident. Mr Blair, who died earlier this year, was on his way home from a newspaper shop and was repeating the journey after realising he had bought the wrong paper.

Mr McGuigan's mother Joan said: "If Mr Blair had not lifted the wrong paper, it would not have happened, and if Paul had not slept in, it would not have happened.

"Wrong place, wrong time. Mr Blair didn't leave the house that morning to kill Paul.

"Paul is very missed – he was a great son."

Mr Blair had left home to get the papers after taking medication he was on for prostate cancer. He picked the wrong newspaper, returned to change it and was travelling home for the second time when the crash happened.

Mr McGuigan's father would later hear people talking about the tragic accident, unaware it was his son.

Constable Peter Grimes, the investigating officer, said Mr Blair had told police in questioning that he had passed out.

He added: "He blacked out and then the first thing he remembered was waking up, wondering what had happened.

"It was a one-off. This was the first time it had happened."

A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service for careless driving causing death, but it was declined.

Mr Blair phoned his wife from the scene of the accident to tell her what had happened. Mary-Anne Blair said: "I couldn't really make him out. He wasn't making sense. He gave me the wrong name of the street."

Mrs Blair phoned her daughter-in-law, Siobhan Blair, and Mr Blair's cousin, Caroline Hasson, who went to the scene. Siobhan was concerned that Mr Blair should have gone to hospital, telling officers he was "unwell."

Ms Hasson said: "He (Mr Blair) said to me, 'What happened? Where am I? What happened? Who hit me?' He was quite confused and very grey."

Mr Blair was questioned and later released.

After the accident, he was referred to a consultant cardiologist for tests, which coroner Suzanne Anderson said "gives an explanation for this blackout Mr Blair said he had".

He had been a cardiac patient since 2008 for conditions that had been brought under control.

Following his review in October 2012, he was sent for invasive tests and a scan revealed an infarction of the left ventricle.

In a report, the cardiologist said: "The significance is that the infarction can cause loss of consciousness and sudden death."

"It's significant in explaining the blackouts."

Pathologist Dr Ingram's report determined Mr McGuigan died from multiple injuries including a fracture of the skull.

The coroner extended her "deepest sympathy" to Mr McGuigan's family.

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