Pedestrian Paul McGuigan was killed by heart condition driver, inquest hears

Paul McGuigan
Paul McGuigan

A pedestrian in Ballymena was killed when the driver of a Range Rover suffered a blackout and mounted the footpath, an inquest has heard.

Paul McGuigan, 32, was walking along William Street to buy a Sunday newspaper when the vehicle, being driven by cancer patient Patrick Blair, struck him in September 2012.

The father-of-one suffered multiple serious injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Constable Peter Grimes of the PSNI’s Collision Investigation Unit told coroner Suzanne Anderson that although the area is covered by CCTV, the accident was not captured on camera.

“It just showed Mr Blair driving into William Street. The camera was pointing in the wrong direction,” Constable Grimes said.

Mr Blair was arrested and questioned at Ballymena police station where he told officers he had no recollection of the incident.

Despite being prescribed a number of medications he took daily for various conditions, the coroner heard evidence from his wife Mrs Mary-ann Blair, and GP Doctor Mary O’Hara, that Mr Blair had no history of blackouts.

Mr Blair - who died of hospital acquired pneumonia in March this year - underwent an MRI scan which showed a heart muscle abnormality was likely to have resulted in a blackout.

As a result of the specialist medical evidence, a police recommendation to prosecute Mr Blair for careless driving causing death was not progressed.

Paul McGuigan’s father, Fred McGuigan, told the hearing in Belfast on Wednesday that he rang his son’s mobile on hearing of an accident nearby, only for a police officer to answer the call.

Rather than wait at home as requested, Mr McGuigan raced to the scene and identified the critically injured man in an ambulance has his son.

A post mortem examination found the victim to have a low level of prescribed anti-depressants in his blood and an alcohol reading which was “low and of little significance”.

Forensic scientist David Nicholson gave evidence that the Range Rover was travelling at a speed estimated to be “between 28mph and 45mph” at the time of the collision and “had travelled 36 metres from mounting the footpath to where it came to rest”.

Mrs Blair told the coroner she received a mobile phone call from her husband immediately after the incident and he “seemed confused” and distant.

“I asked him if he had phoned the police or ambulance and he said he hadn’t because he didn’t know what had happened,” she said.

Mrs Blair also confirmed that her husband had taken his medication that morning before leaving home.

When asked by the coroner if the cocktail of drugs could have led to a reduced ability to control a vehicle, Dr O’Hara said: “He had been on this medication for some time and it would not have affected his ability to drive. He had been on it for a couple of years.”

Paul McGuigan, who was single, is surived by his five-year-old daughter Aoife. Fred McGuigan said his son was extremely active - coaching swimming and basketball - and had worked as a DJ at The Grouse in Ballymena before his daughter was born.

Paul’s mother Joan McGuigan said the family harboured no resentment towards the driver involved.

“Mr Blair didn’t leave the house that morning to kill Paul. It was just wrong place, wrong time. There are usually cars parked along that street but because it was a Sunday morning there wasn’t,” Mrs McGuigan said.

“He was a great son who was very caring, but very quiet,” Mrs McGuigan added.

The coroner expressed her sympathy to the family before finding that Paul McGuigan died as a result of multiple injured sustained when he was struck by the Range Rover while on the footpath in William Street.