Tragic end for tourist visiting for stag party

Coroner for Galway West Dr. Ciaran MacLoughlin: sympathised with family over tragedy.
Coroner for Galway West Dr. Ciaran MacLoughlin.

A man who was visiting Galway as part of a stag party died because he went the wrong way after leaving a city pub, Galway Coroner’s Court heard.

Sam Rowlands (30) had arrived in Galway on Friday, June 16, 2017 for a stag weekend, but died after being hit by a taxi at Bushypark on the N59 Moycullen Road in the early hours of June 18.

Coroner for West Galway Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin heard how Mr Rowlands had been staying in the Victoria Hotel and had been socialising in the city with friends, but “disappeared” from the King’s Head pub at 12.15am on Saturday, June 18.

In CCTV footage shown to a jury at an inquiry into his death, Mr Rowlands was seen exiting the High Street pub before walking in the direction of Cross Street. In the footage, Mr Rowlands was seen to be unsteady on his feet.

Cameras at various locations showed Mr Rowlands as he walked down Mill Street, before heading out Presentation Road and across Newcastle.

The last footage of the 30-year-old was captured by cameras at NUI Galway as he continued to walk out of the city through Dangan – in the direction of the location where he would die after being struck by a taxi driven by Imran Khan.

The inquiry heard from James McGrath, who lives in Galway and knew Mr Rowlands through a relation who lived in Wales, that he joined the stag party at around in the King’s Head at 11pm, by which time, they were “fairly drunk”.

Mr McGrath said he did not see Mr Rowlands leaving, adding “I have no idea what time he left”.

Adrian Richardson told how he had been travelling from his home on the Barna Road, Moycullen, into Galway to collect his wife between 12.45 and 1am when he saw a male at Dangan Nurseries who matched the description of Mr Rowlands.

“He stumbled out on to the road and I had to swerve the car to avoid hitting him,” said Mr Richardson. “On the way home, I saw the same man and he was now on the opposite side of the road, just past the Bushypark Road.”

Mr Richardson’s wife called the Gardaí to alert them of his presence.

That same night, Imran Khan was returning to Galway after dropping a fare off in Corcullen.

Mr Khan described how Mr Rowlands appeared to “jump” from the ditch about 800 metres from the Glenlo Abbey Hotel.

Mr Khan said he was in total shock after the impact. He recalled that he was driving at 50 to 55 km per hour in the 100 km per hour speed zone as there was a bend in the road and he was “in no rush”.

He voluntarily surrendered his phone to Gardaí who, on inspection, found the only call made around the time of the collision was to the emergency services at 1.28am.

“I swear to God, he was not on the road,” said Mr Khan, in response to questioning from the Rowlands family’s solicitor, Brendan Donnelly. “He just appeared from the ditch”.

Qualified nurse Colette Cullinan was driving back to Moycullen from Tuam at the time and was first on the scene.

She described how she, with the help of Liam Carroll who also came on the scene, put Mr Rowlands in the recovery position. She said he was still breathing, but she noticed his head felt soft.

She recalled how the taxi driver was “paralysed” with shock and handed his phone to Mr Carroll to speak to emergency services.

Garda Pat Costello attended the scene and in his evidence to the court, described how Mr Rowlands was being treated by paramedics when he arrived – and that Mr Khan had been sick a number of times while in his presence.

Mr Khan was questioned under caution and informed Garda Costello that a male appeared to jump from the left hand side of the road into his path.

A breath test returned negative for the presence of alcohol and the silver Volkswagen Passat taxi he was driving was seized for technical examination.

Garda Ollie White, a road traffic collision forensic specialist, gave evidence that there was no street lighting nor footpaths where the collision occurred.

Garda White said he was confident the vehicle was travelling at no more than 70 or 80 kilometres per hour.

He said the Volkswagen badge from the front of the saloon car was found approximately 10 metres from the point of impact.

There was indentation on the front grill and the windscreen was shattered, which he said would fit the hypothesis of solicitor Brendan Donnelly that Mr Rowlands was hit by the front of the vehicle and thrown over the windscreen – meaning the first impact was with his lower leg.

Mr Rowlands was brought to UHG where he later died from his injuries.

Consultant Pathologist Dr Mary Casey who carried out a post mortem examination found a laceration to his right leg which she concluded was the “probable site” of initial impact – and that Mr Rowland had suffered significant fracturing of the skull.

The jury found, in accordance with the medical evidence, that the cause of death was a fracture at the base of the skull, with subsequent brain-stem death sustained in a road traffic collision.

The Coroner Dr MacLoughlin extended his sincere sympathy to Mr Rowlands’ wife Lowri, his son Joseph, mother and father Margo and Alun, and his brothers Adam and Ben.

“What should have been a weekend of celebration and fun turned out, for the Rowlands family to be a very tragic and unfortunate event,” said Dr MacLoughlin.