GAA player killed in road crash was still over drink-drive limit from previous day

Former gaelic footballer Ryan McCaul had played for St Colm's GAC in Drum, Co Derry, before ill health forced him to retire. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

THE sister of a Co Derry man who was killed in a car crash while over the drink-drive limit from a previous day's drinking has said she hopes his death will serve as a warning to others.

Ciara McCaul was echoing comments made by coroner Suzanne Anderson at an inquest in Belfast into the death of her brother, Ryan McCaul.

Mr McCaul (31), from Drum near Dungiven, had been travelling to work in Co Donegal on the morning of Monday December 5 2016 when his car collided with a van on the A6 Foreglen Road at its junction with Altmover Road. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A talented sportsman and mechanical engineer, he had survived a number of health scares throughout his life, including leukaemia as a child and in later years meningitis.

He had also suffered ill health as a result of road crashes, the most serious in 2004 when he ended up in a coma.

Despite returning to training with his GAA club, St Colm's in Drum, the collision effectively ended a promising Gaelic career - he had lined out for the club's senior side while still a minor but was forced to retire in 2010 after playing just one game.

A lover of several sports, he had played soccer for Burnfoot FC and rugby for Limavady Grammar School, where he studied before moving to St Patrick's College, Maghera, and also ran marathons in New York and Chicago for charity.

The occupants of the van, who were travelling to work in Mallusk in Co Antrim, escaped with whiplash, chest and leg injuries.

Van driver Mark Loughrey told of the moment of impact.

"I just saw a red car and screamed. I expected him to stop. I couldn't have avoided him," he said.

"I just remember a bang and smoke, and when I got out I saw the driver slumped over the armrest.

"A man told me that I didn't need to see that and took me away."

A post-mortem examination revealed that Mr McCaul had died of "multiple injuries" and that there was a "moderate level" of alcohol in his blood, equivalent to one and a half times the legal drink-drive limit.

Forensic scientist Damian Coll said that in his view the speed of the car was "low on impact", but that it was not possible to "establish if he had stopped prior to emerging or had driven on without stopping".

Ryan's mother Edwina McCaul said that on the morning of the fatal crash, she had given her son his lunch and asked him to text her later "to let me know when he got to work safely".

She said: "I spoke to Ryan on the Monday morning and apologised for telling him (in a bar in Limavady on the Saturday night) to stop dancing and act normally.

"I told him to stop going to the bar on Sunday. He said he would be stopping drinking because he was to start training for the marathon," added Mrs McCaul.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson expressed her sympathies to the McCaul family and said that his "tragic death once again highlights the grave risk in driving the morning after drinking alcohol".

"You can still be over the drink drive limit," she said.

Speaking after the inquest, Ciara McCaul described her brother as "fun, giving, somebody who always made you smile".

"It just shows that it is a warning to other people. He had been out on the Saturday, and he then had four pints on the Sunday watching the football. That was enough to put him over the limit."

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