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British motorcyclists killed on M50 after wheels touched

Two British motorcyclists coming to the end of a holiday in Ireland were killed after their wheels touched in a collision on the M50 in Dublin two years ago, an inquest had heard.

Paul Ingram (59) and Brian McFarlane (63) suffered fatal injuries in the crash which occurred on the northbound section of the M50 between the Red Cow and Liffey Valley junctions on June 3, 2022.

A sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court heard that the two friends were travelling in the outside lane of the motorway when the front wheel of Mr McFarlane’s Harley-Davidson touched the rear wheel of Mr Ingram’s BMW F800 bike.

The two wheels became locked and could not separate which caused the two motorcyclists to fall into the centre lane under the trailer of a passing articulated lorry.

Heavy traffic pictured on the M50 after the collision

A forensic collision investigator, garda Lyn Connaughton, said two sets of wheels of the trailer would have driven over the victims which was confirmed by CCTV footage which showed a slight elevation in the lorry at the time of the collision.

A preliminary hearing of the inquest last year heard the bodies of the two men could only be formally identified by DNA samples due to the nature of their injuries.

One eyewitness to the fatal crash, Frank Lillis, said he had been driving on the M50 when he noticed two motorcyclists in the outside lane.

Mr Lillis said traffic on the motorway had been moving at a steady pace at around 40-50km/h but had then started to slow down.

He recalled seeing the first motorcyclist brake but that the other rider behind him appeared to be looking at his left leg which momentarily delayed him braking at the same time.

The witness said the driver of the truck would not have a clue about what happened as they had fallen into the path of his vehicle between the cab and the trailer.

“It was just a freak accident,” said Mr Lillis.

‘Blink of an eye’

Another motorist, Pádraig Flood, said he initially thought both victims had been on the one motorcycle but then realised the two vehicles were stuck together.

Mr Flood said one of their helmets had been broken in the impact.

Another eyewitness, Niall Donnelly, told the inquest that he noticed the two riders were “extremely close to each other” which he thought was “bizarre.”

Mr Donnelly said he thought they were touching handlebars and that they must have known each other.

“It all happened in the blink of an eye,” he added.

The driver of the truck, Valentin Petkov, said he had been returning to Dublin Port after making a delivery to Clonmel, Co Tipperary, when he found himself slowing down and speeding up again due to heavy traffic on the M50.

Mr Petkov gave evidence that he only realised that there was something wrong when another motorist signalled him to stop his vehicle.

“I did not know what he was talking about at that stage,” said Mr Petkov through a Bulgarian translator.

He said he had not seen the two motorcyclists in his mirrors at any time.

A paramedic who arrived on the scene, David Walsh, said both victims had suffered injuries which were incompatible with life.

The inquest heard that no mechanical defects were found with either the two motorcycles or the truck and trailer.

All three parties involved in the collision tested negative for alcohol and drugs.

Gda Connaughton said she had concluded from her investigation that speed was not a factor in the crash which had occurred at 1.36pm on a straight section of the M50 in dry weather conditions.

She said forensic evidence had shown that the front wheel of Mr McFarlane’s bike had become wedged between the exhaust and rear wheel of Mr Ingram’s vehicle which caused both riders to topple into the centre lane and the path of the trailer.

Gda Connaughton said the most likely explanation for the collision based on the evidence of one of the eyewitness accounts was that Mr McFarlane was momentarily distracted by looking down at his left leg.

Detective Inspector Brian Hanley told the inquest that the DPP had directed that no criminal prosecution should arise out of the fatal crash and had subsequently provided the families of the victims with the reason for her decision.

‘Shocking incident’

Returning verdicts of accidental death in both cases, the coroner, Clare Keane, offered her condolences to relatives of the families on such a “shocking” incident.

Mr Ingram from Moulton, Northamptonshire and Mr McFarlane from Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire had been coming to the end of a holiday spent travelling the Wild Atlantic Way when the fatal collision occurred as they were heading to Belfast.

Gardaí had to issue an appeal to members of the public not to share images of the aftermath of the collision after shocking footage of the crash scene was posted on social media within minutes of the fatal incident.

One relative of Mr Ingram said she had seen the images online before realising it was a member of her own family.

The Irish motorcycling community paid tribute to the two victims by providing an escort for Mr Ingram’s coffin as it was repatriated to his family in England from Dublin Airport while also staging a guard of honour for a cremation service for Mr McFarlane in Dublin.

Mr McFarlane’s partner, Ann Hudson, who attended the inquest, expressed gratitude to the emergency services and the Irish authorities for all the assistance they had provided to her.

Ms Hudson also greeted the driver of the truck and reassured him that she did not blame him for the fatal collision.

Speaking of her later partner, Ms Hudson remarked: “He died doing what he loved. He had completed the Wild Atlantic Way.”

She added: “He had a happy time until this happened…but it was all too soon.”

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