A Co Antrim road junction has been described as a “death trap” during an inquest into the deaths of two care workers in July 2016.
Driver Michelle McStravick, 35, from Randalstown, and Lorraine Clyde, 56, from Antrim, were killed when their Citroen C1 car was struck by a Ford Focus as they entered the Church Road from the Moneyrod Road near Randalstown on July 25.
The two women were working as community care assistants when the collision occurred.
Ms McStravick was a popular competitor in bodybuilding circles and Mrs Clyde had been well-known in Antrim as a patrol lady for St Comgall’s Primary School.
During the inquest hearing in Belfast, state pathologist Dr James Lyness gave evidence that the “very severe injuries” to both women’s brains and spines were “unsurvivable”.
The other driver involved, Michelle McCoy, said she and her partner Alan Nicholl were able to exit their car and, under the telephone instruction of ambulance service personnel, attempt to resuscitate the critically injured women.
Both Ms McCoy and Mr Nicholl told coroner Joe McCrisken that although they were running late that morning, they were travelling within the speed limit.
The coroner also heard from a forensic accident investigator that motorists exiting the Moneyrod Road onto the Church Road had a “severely restricted” view – with as little as 2.5 seconds between a first sight of oncoming traffic and an impact with a vehicle travelling at the 60mph speed limit.
Mr McCrisken expressed grave concerns about the visibility at the junction and said he would be writing to the Department for Infrastructure in an effort to have the dangers minimised.
The coroner said he was satisfied that Ms McCoy was not breaking the speed limit when the collision occurred shortly before 8am.
“This particular junction is to blame,” he said.
Mr McCrisken said there was “very little” Ms McCoy could do to avoid a collision.
“Any dangers that persist must be dealt with properly. I expect improvements to be made to this junction,” he added.
A police officer from the Collision Investigation Unit told the coroner that scheduled road works on a nearby major road will create a significant increase in traffic past this hazardous junction, potentially increasing the risk of further incidents.
Edward McStravick, father of Michelle McStravick, told the hearing that the tragedy had been a “devastating blow” for his family, and said he viewed the junction as “a death trap”.
Ms McStravick’s teenage daughter Cliodhan was at her grandfather’s side during the hearing.
The husband of Lorraine Clyde, Mr William Clyde, told the coroner his wife was a mother-of-five.
Immediately after the inquest, Mr McStravick said: “Unless something is done with that junction, this is going to happen again.”
Speaking to the News Letter 12 months after the tragedy, Mr Clyde said he had made efforts to have visibility at the junction improved “to prevent others from being injured,” and was glad that some progress had been made.
The Department for Infrastructure said a number of measures to “improve driver awareness” had already been introduced.
A spokeswoman said: “Department for Infrastructure officials liaised with the PSNI and a representative of the families following the tragic fatal collision on Church Road Randalstown in July 2016.
“Subsequently a number of measures were introduced to help improve driver awareness on the approaches to the junction, including the provision of red warning patches and SLOW markings on the road surface and enhanced direction signage at the junction.
“The junction has also been listed for development of a capital improvement scheme that could be considered for inclusion in future works programme.”
Commenting on the possibility of increased traffic past the junction during scheduled road upgrades, the spokeswoman added: “The department has implemented a number of traffic management measures on the current A6 dualling scheme to minimise delays and reduce the likelihood of traffic seeking to use minor roads in the area.
“Long term, completion of the A6 dualling should see a reduction in traffic using routes such as Church Road.”