Teenager died after being hit by rearview mirror after getting off school bus: investigation

A Waterford teenager suffered fatal injuries after being struck by the rear-view mirror of a van moments after getting off a school bus near her home two years ago, an inquest has heard.

Aisling Kennedy (13) from Glasha, Ballymacarbry, Co Waterford, died at Children’s Health Ireland on Temple Street in Dublin on July 12, 2022, more than three months after the incident.

The first-year student from Presentation Convent in Clonmel never regained consciousness after being transported to hospital by air ambulance following the accident a short distance from her home on April 7, 2022.

The school bus driver, John O’Brien, told the inquest into her death at Dublin District Coroner’s Court that it had stopped on the left side of the road at a junction near Glasha.

O’Brien said several vehicles overtook his bus as it stopped to allow Aisling to exit.

The bus driver said she was standing to the left of the bus as he walked away to continue his trip.

O’Brien said that neither he nor any of the remaining students on the bus witnessed the accident and that he only learned what happened when his employer contacted him later.

In response to questions from the coroner, Cróna Gallagher, the witness said students on the bus were generally advised to wait for the bus to move away before crossing a road.

A motorist, John Fahy, said he was returning from work in Dungarvan, Co Waterford in a van with two of his employees when he saw the school bus stopped on the opposite side of the road from his direction of travel.

Fahy, who runs a construction company based in Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois, recalled that he had slowed down because other vehicles coming towards him were overtaking the bus.

The witness said that just as he was passing the bus he saw a girl approaching his van from the right side, before hearing a bang.

Fahy said he stopped the vehicle and asked one of his employees to call emergency services after seeing the girl lying on the ground.

He told the coroner it all happened “in an instant” but he believed the girl had appeared from a car behind the bus.

Evidence

One of Mr Fahy’s passengers, Mark Kelly, also testified that he saw a girl pull out onto the road and saw the van’s rear-view mirror move after hearing a bang.

Kelly recalled that Aisling remained unconscious while he held the girl’s head in a stable position until emergency services arrived.

He estimated that the van was traveling at about 40 kilometers per hour at the time of the accident.

Another witness, Catherine Troy, who was traveling to Ballymacarbry from Clonmel, said she had seen a girl waiting on the side of the road at the back of the bus.

Troy said he was looking in the rearview mirror when he saw the teen come out from behind the bus in a split second “straight into the side of the truck.”

She told the inquest she doubted she had seen anything fly in the air until she checked again and saw the girl on the ground.

Another motorist, Linda Skehan, who arrived at the scene and provided first aid to Aisling, said she knew from Mr Fahy’s behavior with his head in his hands that something had happened.

Skehan recalled him telling her, “She just ran away.”

He said they covered the victim with blankets and coats after detecting that he still had a pulse.

The investigation found that an examination of Mr Fahy’s Ford Transit van, which had a damaged rear-view mirror, found the vehicle to be roadworthy.

A forensic collision investigator, Garda Maurice Mahon, said the incident occurred on a straight stretch of the R671 regional road between Clonmel and Ballymacarbry in dry, bright conditions.

Garda Mahon said there was no evidence the van skidded before impact and it was impossible to determine the exact location of the impact.

He said the damage to the vehicle was “consistent with a pickup truck and a pedestrian colliding with each other,” but it was not possible to estimate the speed of the vehicle at the time.

Garda Conor O’Donovan confirmed that Mr Fahy had a full driving license and had tested negative for alcohol and drugs.

Garda O’Donovan said he believed Aisling had come from “a blind spot” which left the driver of the van “no opportunity to react”.

The witness observed that if the victim had been of legal age, it is possible that he would have only received a blow to the shoulder with the rearview mirror.

The inquest heard that doctors at Temple Street placed Aisling in a medically induced coma, but her condition never improved despite several operations.

postmortem

An autopsy confirmed that she died from traumatic brain injuries she had suffered when she was struck by the rearview mirror and that was a contributing factor to the bronchial pneumonia.

Aisling’s parents, Thomas and Louise Kennedy, attended the inquest but did not testify in court.

Kennedy had previously told at an earlier session of the case in June 2023 how he formally identified his daughter’s body to gardaí.

Dr Gallagher was also informed on that occasion that the Crown Prosecution Service had ordered that no prosecution be commenced into the circumstances of Aisling’s death after reviewing a Garda file on the case.

His parents also confirmed to the coroner that they would not appeal the Public Ministry’s decision.

Aisling is also survived by her sisters, Eimear and Aoife.

Returning a verdict of accidental death, Dr Gallagher said the incident came “out of the blue” and could not have been predicted or prevented.

The coroner said Aisling had been very unlucky to be hit by the van’s rear-view mirror.

“Another time, it could just be a broken arm,” he said.

Offering her sincere condolences to the teenager’s parents, Dr Gallagher said she could not imagine what they had been through in the months between the accident and her death.

“I’m sure the shock is still with you to this day,” she added.