Police car death ruled 'accidental'
A pedestrian in West Belfast was killed after he ran in front of a police vehicle for a joke while it was responding to an emergency call, a coroner said.
James McMenamin, 29, was returning from a birthday party in June 2005 when he raced on to the Springfield Road in a drunken attempt to flag the vehicle down.
The PSNI crew was travelling at 47mph to assist colleagues who had become trapped by a hostile crowd. The driver swerved and braked heavily but failed to avoid a collision, an inquest in Belfast was told.
Coroner Suzanne Anderson said: "His act of running on to the road in front of the police Land Rover to flag it down was an impulsive one and was intended as a joke.
"Unfortunately his judgment was severely impaired as he was quite heavily intoxicated by alcohol.
"He misjudged the situation and was struck by the police vehicle, sustaining fatal injuries. I am satisfied that his death was accidental and that he did not intend to take his own life."
The married hydraulic engineer from Glenalina Road in Belfast suffered multiple injuries on June 4, 2005 after he was hit by the vehicle and landed a short distance away on the road.
He had attended a birthday party at Gort Na Mona GAA club in Belfast and left at around 1am to walk home alone. He was at the junction of Avoca Close and the Springfield Road when he saw a police vehicle approaching from the direction of New Barnsley police station.
Ms Anderson, in written findings, said she was satisfied by CCTV footage and a police radio transmission recording that the car had its headlights on, blue lights flashing and siren sounding.
Despite this, Mr McMenamin ran on to the road, waving his arms to get the crew's attention. He had left the party just a few minutes earlier and was described by fellow party-goers as having been in extremely good form.
The coroner said: "I am therefore satisfied that he was not in any distress or difficulty which would have required him to leave the safety of the footpath and come on to the road to flag down the police in order to assist him.
"Similarly, there is no rational explanation for him attempting to cross the road at that point as, firstly, it was out of his way for walking home, secondly, there was no footpath on the other side of the road, and thirdly, there was no commercial outlet open on the other side of the road at that time of night."
She accepted evidence from the experienced police driver that at all times he attempted to avoid a collision by taking his foot off the accelerator, braking hard and veering to the right.
A taxi driver who witnessed the accident said: "The police jeep swerved to the right going up the hill and there was a screech and I got the impression that the driver of the jeep was trying to avoid the man."
He was driving above the 30mph speed limit in the built up residential area but within police guidelines of a maximum of 55mph for that vehicle.
Ms Anderson added: "I accept the driver's evidence that he did not drive at or above 55mph and that he did not drive faster than was justified for the serious emergency to which he was responding."
She found that the cause of death was multiple injuries.