Porsche en­thu­si­ast re­calls tragic Paq­paqli ac­ci­dent which left wife and daugh­ter per­ma­nently in­jured

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Gabriel Schem­bri

Lawyer and Porsche en­thu­si­ast Michael Grech yes­ter­day took to the wit­ness stand to tes­tify in the case filed against the Paq­paqli Ghall-Ist­rina event or­gan­is­ers and driver Paul Bai­ley. He re­called how his day out with his wife and their daugh­ter turned into tragedy.

Like thou­sands of other Mal­tese car en­thu­si­asts, Dr Grech had driven to the MIA run­way for the event. He gave a do­na­tion to the Malta Com­mu­nity Chest Fund and was given the chance to drive a Porsche. Dr Grech said that ev­ery­thing seemed un­der con­trol and with the 30 to 50 peo­ple who wanted to drive, there was one Porsche in­struc­tor.

On the day of the in­ci­dent, Dr Grech and his fel­low club mem­bers met in Marsa and drove to the air­port, where the event was tak­ing place. The driv­ers were ac­com­pa­nied by a po­lice es­cort. They en­tered the area and parked their cars for dis­play.

The wit­ness said that at around 1:30pm, he called his wife who was also on site. Half an hour later, the PA sys­tem an­nounced that a Porsche was go­ing to be driv­ing through the drift­ing cir­cuit and so he de­cided to walk in that di­rec­tion and stopped be­fore Hangar 9.

“We stopped when we saw a group of peo­ple wait­ing for the drift­ing ses­sion by Paul Bai­ley. I then walked a bit fur­ther as I wanted to check at what time the sprints were go­ing to take place. Sud­denly, I heard the screech­ing of car brakes and the sound of an im­pact.”

Within sec­onds, Dr Grech walked back to where his fam­ily was and saw his daugh­ter ly­ing on the ground, bleed­ing.

“There was a lot of blood, a lot of panic.”

The daugh­ter had frac­tured her head and some­one was hold­ing her. “She was non-re­spon­sive but still breath­ing.” Mean­while, Dr Grech saw his son hold­ing his mother’s hand­bag. “I could not find my wife,” he said.

Then a man told him that there was a woman be­hind the car which had just drifted through the crowd. “I found her there be­hind the car door. There was a po­lice in­spec­tor with her. She looked con­scious but at first I thought that she had lost her legs.”

The daugh­ter was the first to be taken into the am­bu­lance which ar­rived on site. “She spent the first cou­ple of days in in­ten­sive care.” His wife spent a longer time at the ICU. “They told me my wife had suf­fered from nu­mer­ous limb frac­tures. She spent more than a month and a half in hospi­tal.”

Both daugh­ter and wife suf­fered from griev­ous in­juries. His wife was griev­ously in­jured in the head. “Her jaw, el­bow, rib cage and shoul­der were all bro­ken. One of her legs was bro­ken in eight places. She’s still un­able to move with­out a wheelchair un­til this very day,” he said.

He re­called how his wife had to un­dergo count­less oper­a­tions. Oper­a­tions on her right leg have so far been un­suc­cess­ful. Back in Fe­bru­ary, his wife had to go to Lon­don for surgery.

His daugh­ter spent days with­out mov­ing. At first CT scans showed that the im­pact did not dam­age the brain. “She even­tu­ally started talk­ing again. Her first words were to ask for her mother. Even­tu­ally I started to note that she would stop and stare at an ob­ject. She was taken back to ICU and an MRI showed that the ac­ci­dent had caused some dam­age to the brain.”

It later tran­spired that the ac­ci­dent had even af­fected her hor­mones.

“Fur­ther tests showed that she had suf­fered a blow to the part of the brain which con­trols the hor­mones. She is still un­der­go­ing phys­io­ther­apy. There was slight progress but she is some­how still lim­ited. Her face is still scarred.”

Dr Grech’s son, although never phys­i­cally af­fected by the ac­ci­dent, has ex­pe­ri­enced in­tense anx­i­ety.

“My life was turned up­side down. My wife does not sleep at night be­cause of the pain. She only man­ages to sleep with mor­phine.”

Dr Grech had been to the event twice be­fore. “I al­ways as­sumed that To­nio Dar­manin or­gan­ised the event,” he said, adding that he did not know who the mem­bers of the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee were.

The wit­ness said that the barriers were not filled with wa­ter and the pub­lic was placed be­hind a rope stuck to metal rods.

Juan­pablo Sira­cusa, Chief Of­fi­cer Claims at Mapfre Mid­dle­sea In­surance, was also called to tes­tify. He said that the com­pany chose to cover the event but could not iden­tify a spe­cific in­di­vid­ual who rep­re­sented the client.

Mr Sira­cusa said that he could not have such in­for­ma­tion as the client had used an in­surance bro­ker to search for the best of­fer to cover the char­ity event.

Lawyer Roberto Mon­talto re­peat­edly asked who the client re­ally was. The wit­ness said that the com­pany al­ways cor­re­sponded with the bro­ker. He also ex­plained that this was not the first time that Mapfre Mid­dle­sea cov­ered the event.

Mr Sira­cusa ex­plained that the clients in this case were those in­di­vid­u­als who rep­re­sented the or­gan­is­ing en­ti­ties, in­clud­ing Paq­paq Pro­duc­tions and the Malta Com­mu­nity Chest Fund.

Mag­is­trate Aaron Bugeja asked if the in­surance com­pany car­ries out risk as­sess­ment or anal­y­sis of what risks this event could carry. The wit­ness replied that for the drift­ing sec­tion, the same sec­tion where the ac­ci­dent took place, the com­pany did not spec­ify what kind of fenc­ing was nec­es­sary. He said that this was not done, pos­si­bly, be­cause this event was held in the past with no prob­lems what­so­ever.

The in­surance cov­ered all the event through­put, from prepa­ra­tions to the dis­man­tling phase and the in­surance was specif­i­cally opened for this event.

He then added that the postal ad­dress of the client was San An­ton Palace, the res­i­dence of the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic.

En­gi­neer Mar­shall Dal­mas rep­re­sent­ing MIA, also tes­ti­fied. His role is to take care of air­port oper­a­tions. He was tasked with the co­or­di­na­tion of the area which was go­ing to be used by the or­gan­is­ers. Lieu­tenant Brian Gatt and To­nio Dar­manin nor­mally at­tended the meet­ings.

Mr Dal­mas ex­plained that dur­ing th­ese meet­ings, they iden­ti­fied the ar­eas to be used and the safety mea­sures needed. They de­cided to use a run­way for parts of the show which in­volved speed­ing. The or­gan­is­ers wanted to use the run­way. Ex­act speeds and cars to be used were not spec­i­fied but he was told that there would be speed­ing cars.

In pre­vi­ous state­ments which were read out by lawyer Mon­talto, Mr Dal­mas said that Mr Dar­manin and Lt Gatt had in­sisted that the run­way be used for th­ese high speed runs.

“They in­sisted,” he had said in the state­ment. Mr Dar­manin and Lt Gatt had ex­pressed safety con­cerns over th­ese high speed runs.

“We chose to give up the run­way for the event with the con­di­tion that all as­sess­ments had to be car­ried out by the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee.”

The lawyer asked if the MIA was given a copy of some sort of an as­sess­ment.

“What hap­pens in the con­ceded area falls un­der the or­gan­iser’s re­spon­si­bil­ity. We are avi­a­tion ex­perts not car ex­perts,” Mr Dal­mas added.

The case re­sumes on 8 May.

Her jaw, el­bow, rib cage and shoul­der were all bro­ken. One of her legs was bro­ken in eight places. She’s still un­able to move with­out a wheelchair un­til this very day.

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