Northern Ireland

Warrenpoint police deaths inquest hears police jeeps now have safety features

Crash scene Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Four police constables died in the crash near Warrenpoint six years ago

The inquest into the deaths of four PSNI officers heard that since the crash every armoured police jeep now has a kick out window for emergency escape.

David Graham was the man in charge of purchasing the armoured 4x4 which crashed on the Moygannon Road, near Warrenpoint in 2008.

It claimed the lives of four constables.

The PSNI started using specially configured Mitsubishi Shoguns in 2000.

This was part of the normalisation of policing, and moving away from armoured Landrovers.

In November 2008, constables Kevin Gorman, James Magee, Kenny Irvine and Declan Greene became trapped in the burning vehicle after they crashed, the doors became jammed, and they were unable to break the armoured windows.

Mr Graham said he thought that there had been testing done on the Shoguns once the armouring had been added, although he acknowledged that he could not find any police records of that testing having taken place.

An external company, Harvey Bailey, modified the vehicles and undertook the testing.

Since the accident, Mr Graham's advice to PSNI colleagues in regard to the safety of the jeeps was that they should always be driven below 60mph, never used on blue light emergency runs, and never carry more than three occupants.

The court also heard conflicting evidence from expert crash specialists over the safety of the the armoured jeeps.

The two crash specialists each work for companies who were used as expert consultants in the enquiry into the death of Princess Diana.

The experts broadly agreed on the events of the crash, the fact that with all four officers and their equipment inside the jeep, it would have been overloaded, and that that armoured police 4x4s were not suitable for emergency response calls.

However, they disagreed as to how much responsibility for the crash could be placed on the characteristics of the police Mitsubishi Shogun.

More pronounced

Stuart Blackwood, a forensic collision investigator with police driving experience, said this type of vehicle had a much bigger "roll" or pendulum movement when going round corners than a normal saloon car.

He also said that inside the vehicle, the sensation of roll in the vehicle would have been much more pronounced.

He said it was likely that the driver reacted to that, resulting in the car spinning and crashing.

He said that after the accident he drove the route in the same type of vehicle, and even at lower speeds he experienced a slight amount of roll.

He further suggested that the sensation of roll was highly likely to have had an impact because Constable Magee had worked most of his shift in a saloon car, with much less roll, and had only just switched to the armoured jeep and driven one mile before he crashed.

It was the opinion of Mr Blackwood that he would have expected the armoured 4x4 to have been in the advanced driver category.

Within the PSNI, Constable Magee was able to drive the armoured jeep with only standard driver training.

Dr John Searle, an independent consultant on road accidents, disagreed.

He stated that the vehicle handled well, and although it should not be used for response work, that was simply because it was not fast enough and not because it might have been a factor in this crash.

He stated that had the driver experienced "roll", he would have been unlikely to have steered further into the corner, which the road markings show.

Mr Searle though the reason for the crash was much likely to been as a result of travelling over a manhole cover which caused the back wheels of the jeep to lose traction and spin out.

The manhole cover on that particular bend in the road has since been tarmaced over.

The lawyer for the late Constable Magee's family highlighted that it was his understanding that no other police force used Mitsubishi Shogun's for emergency response calls.

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