Belfast Telegraph

Barry Bell inquest: Drink and speeding warning after 'reckless' Saintfield crash

By Cate McCurry

A coroner has issued a stark warning about the dangers of speeding and drink-driving after a father-of-one was killed when he "recklessly" rode through a Co Down village at 70mph-plus.

Barry Bell (28) was over double the legal drink-driving limit and had taken cocaine when he collided with a car in Saintfield on November 26 last year.

The Belfast man was thrown 50 metres from his motorcycle and it was smashed into five pieces.

Coroner Joe McCrisken said Mr Bell rode the motorcycle "recklessly" and through a red light.

He added that the combination of excessive speed and drink and drugs was the cause of the accident.

"Fortunately, no other road user was killed," he said.

"In Northern Ireland, really, by now we should know that speed and drink and drugs is a serious risk to road users.

"We know that Barry made a decision which caused his family to lose a member when he drove in a dangerous manner.

"There will be other people who make the same decision and might read about this. Anyone who will consider making the same choice and get into a vehicle after taking drink, I want them to think again and think about the impact it may have on other people and other road users."

An inquest into his death heard that on the morning of the fatal collision Mr Bell went to his work at a car wash.

His boss John McMurray said that when Mr Bell arrived at work at 11am he smelled of alcohol. Mr McMurray offered him money to get a taxi home, but he did not leave.

It later emerged that Mr Bell, who had been disqualified from driving, had a bottle of vodka with him.

Shortly after 5.30pm he was riding his motorcycle on Crossgar Road when he collided with a car that was emerging on to the road.

In the seconds leading up to the accident witnesses described hearing a "roaring and revving" motorcycle engine.

One witness, Noreen Napier, said he was driving "recklessly".

"He zigzagged and zoomed past me. It was the speed and sound, it was very unusual driving," she said.

Jeff Morgan was walking through the village with his wife when he heard an "almighty roar" of a motorbike.

"The revs got louder and it went past us at high speed," he said. "Then we heard an enormous bang and knew an accident had happened.

"I could see the motorbike in pieces and the rider was on up the road."

Local GP Dr Christy rushed to the scene after hearing an "explosion" outside his home.

"My wife and I went outside and I could see smoke rising and people shouting. I saw a motorcycle, it appeared to disintegrate.

"I checked for his pulse and made sure not to move his head."

Two other medics - a junior doctor and a consultant anaesthetist - who were in the area also attended the scene.

"He was taking the odd breath but we knew we had to turn him and under the junior doctors' instructions we log-rolled him," Dr Christy added.

They performed CPR and used a defibrillator on the motorcyclist before emergency services arrived.

Dr Jennifer Thompson, a consultant anaesthetist, was able to intubate Mr Bell at the scene so he could breathe mechanically. He was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he died hours later.

A post-mortem report showed he suffered serious injuries to his chest and abdominal area, including fractured ribs and lacerations to the right lung and liver.

Mechanical engineer Emerson Callendar carried out an investigation into the collision. He told the court Mr Bell was travelling at a speed "probably faster than" 72mph before the impact.

He added that it was "highly possible" that the other driver did not see him when she checked for oncoming traffic before carrying out the manoeuvre.

Mr McCrisken praised the medical staff who arrived on the scene within minutes.

"Despite their heroic efforts he died at the Royal Victoria Hospital," he said. "This is a death that didn't need to happen.

"So far this year 43 people have lost their lives. I hope it stays at that figure."

The motorcyclist is survived by his partner Kat and daughter Charlie, his mother Lorna, sisters Denise and Kirsty, and brothers Paul, Aiden and Scott.

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