Eugene Maher (62) A screeching of brakes and a loud scream
Eugene Maher (62) from Fairview in Dublin was seriously injured on June 30th, 2015, while crossing with his bike at a pedestrian green light on the Clontarf road. He died that night from head injuries.
Eugene Maher knew the cycle to Dollymount Strand like the back of his hand. “Cycling was his passion,” remembers Eugene’s daughter Lisa. “He loved to keep fit and he loved the sea air. He’d go and sit at the lighthouse at Dollymount where he’d ponder the world and get lost in his thoughts.” Born in Fairview, the 62-year-old often cycled the length of the promenade to Howth in his youth.
On the final day of June 2015, Eugene woke up to clear skies, sunshine and very warm weather. He worked from home in a small purpose-built office in the back garden of the family’s home in Drumcondra. He was scheduled to have a meeting that Tuesday afternoon but when it was cancelled he decided to go outside and enjoy the sunshine.
“The sun was splitting the stones and I think it was the hottest day of 2015,” says Lisa. “He was a fitness fanatic but he was super cautious. He’d walk half a mile down the road to cross at the pedestrian lights.”
After cycling his usual route to the strand, Eugene turned the bike around to head home for his dinner. He cycled from the seafront cycle path to the Alfie Byrne road, crossed at the lights, and continued his journey along the footpath towards the pedestrian lights outside the West Wood gym on the Clontarf road.
Meanwhile, unknown to Eugene, a car filled with a group of young men was travelling at speed down the coast road towards the Clontarf road intersection. He did not hear the cheering from the vehicle as it swerved into the bus lane and sped past the rush hour traffic stopped at red lights.
As the pedestrian l i ght turned green, Eugene set off across the road. Commuters heading home for the evening would l ater describe the screeching of brakes and a l oud scream a split second before the sound of impact.
The driver tried to stop the car by doing a handbrake turn which caused the car to spin and hit Eugene at full force. “They took no regard for that red light and hit my dad at 70km/ h. My dad went up on the roof, the windscreen, the bonnet and then hit the ground. He was knocked unconscious.”
The emergency services were called and the doctor arranged for Eugene to be transferred to Beaumont. When the paramedics arrived they used the emergency contacts on his phone to call his wife Marie.
“My mam had the dinner on the table. She answered the phone asking ‘where are you, you’re late?’. The paramedic told her she needed to go to Beaumont.”
Lisa had spent that Tuesday after- noon enjoying the sunshine in the back garden of her home in Ashbourne with her two young sons, Harry and Jack. Like every week, she was planning to visit her parents in Drumcondra the following day. Shortly before dinner, at around 7.30pm, the phone rang.
“My mam said: ‘ Your dad’s been knocked down but I think he’s okay.’ Something inside me said this isn’t right. Lisa left her partner Darren to look after the boys and jumped in the car.
As soon as she explained to the receptionist in Beaumont Hospital who she was, a nurse appeared and led her briskly through the emergency department to meet her mother. “They brought us tea and coffee and were making a fuss of us. I said to mam, ‘they don’t do this normally’.”
A short time later a garda came into the room and explained to Lisa and her mother that Eugene had been knocked down in a hit- and- run but that gardaí across Dublin were searching for the driver. Then the doctors arrived in the room.
“I’ll never forget that doctor looking at my mam and saying ‘I’m very sorry, there’s nothing more we can do’. She went into shock and I screamed, I lost it completely. I still feel like I’ve never left that room.”
Initially the family was told they would have 24 hours to say their goodbyes to Eugene. However, at 11pm a nurse urged the family to get to the ICU as soon as possible.
“We were told it was a matter of minutes, that his vital organs were shutting down. He was propped up in the bed with bandages and blood. It wasn’t the way I wanted to see my dad in his final moments.”
Lisa, her mother and brother were with Eugene when he died shortly before midnight on Tuesday, June 30th. “That was it. My whole life was turned upside down in a matter of hours.”
Six days later, 27- year- old Christopher Coleman was arrested for driving his car into Eugene and later pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and causing his death. He was sentenced to 2½ years’ imprisonment and disqualified from driving for 15 years. In 2017, following a review of his sentence by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Coleman’s jail time was increased by nine months.
“I hate that man for what he did. In a split second he took control of every aspect of our life. It’s so hard to accept it but at the same time if I harbour those feelings it’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. I’m speaking for myself, not my mum or brother, but I can’t keep that hate inside me because it effects every part of my life.”
Nearly three years on, Lisa is still coming to terms with the loss of the man she says was her “best friend”. “I never thought it would be me. We can all have an impact if we’re safer, slow down and we don’t use our phones while driving. Don’t let my story become your story.”
‘‘ I hate that man for what he did. In a split second he took control of every aspect of our life