Fatal Ulster Rally crash could have killed child spectators

Timothy Cathcart who lost his life during the Ulster Rally in 2014
Timothy Cathcart who lost his life during the Ulster Rally in 2014

An out-of-control rally car that crashed, killing its young driver, came within a foot of ploughing into two child spectators, an inquest has heard.

One of the children watching the Ulster Rally stage that claimed the life of Timothy Cathcart was filming the vehicle as it approached a stage finish at an estimated 110mph.

The modified DS3 Citroen span out of control after becoming airborne over a road crest just metres before the finish line near Fivemiletown, Co Fermanagh, and careered into a fence where the two children and an adult were watching the event.

Mr Cathcart, a 20-year-old student from Ely Lodge, near Enniskillen, sustained fatal head injuries in the August 2014 crash and his Welsh co-driver Dai Roberts was seriously injured.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan, who watched the iPad footage of the crash filmed by the child, and also in-car GoPro video, said he and the two other spectators were “very lucky”.

“Not only could we be hearing Timothy Cathcart’s inquest today, there could have been one, if not another potentially two or three people, that I could be dealing with in an inquest hearing today,” he told Belfast Coroner’s Court.

A police constable told the coroner Mr Cathcart’s car had destroyed a 20-metre section of the fence and impacted “within a foot” from where the spectators had been standing in the garden.

Co-driver Mr Roberts, from Carmarthen, broke four vertebrae, fractured ribs and lacerated his liver and a kidney in the crash.

He told the court Mr Cathcart was really keen to perform well in the race, as it was in his home county.

Mr Roberts, a British champion, said although Mr Cathcart had got into difficulties earlier he’d regained his composure before the fatal crash.

Retired pro-rally driver Niall McShea said losing control of a car on landing from a crest was not uncommon and said “99.99 times out of 100” it would not have resulted in a fatal crash.

Mr Cathcart’s father Ian, once a rally driver himself, said the family was still struggling with their loss.

“We are still heartbroken to be honest,” he told the coroner.

“Timmy was a very bubbly, forward-thinking, friendly, outgoing fella. It’s just a very sad loss.”

Mr Cathcart raised concern about using race routes where the particular type of ‘D fencing’ was in place.

The Cathcart family’s lawyer also raised concerns about the safety of having a finishing straight so close to a crest.

Clerk of the course Gary Milligan said there were “numerous similar crests” on the route. The inquest was told since the fatality D-fencing has been highlighted using hi-vis netting.

The inquest continues.