Dad who ran in front of oncoming bus and flung daughter to safety ‘a hero’, inquest hears
A coroner's inquest into the death of driver Mark Wills (53) and Fr Con Cronin (72) was told it was "a miracle" no-one else was killed
A young father was hailed as a hero for his "unbelievable" actions in saving his daughter's life as a Bus Éireann coach careered out of control in a tragedy, which claimed the life of the driver and an elderly curate.
A Cork coroner's inquest into the death of driver Mark Wills (53) and Fr Con Cronin (72) in August 2021 was told it was "a miracle" no-one else was killed in the freak accident near a popular Cork harbour leisure area.
The inquest returned a verdict of death by natural causes for Mr Wills and accidental death for Fr Cronin, who had been crossing the road when he was struck by the out of control bus.
It is believed Mr Wills suffered a coronary attack in the seconds before the tragedy - with CCTV footage from the bus showing him unresponsive at the steering wheel as the vehicle went into an uncontrolled swerve.
Harrowing details emerged of the double tragedy on August 3 2021 as Coroner Frank O'Connell was told that young father, Des Tobin, flung his daughter Vivienne (13) to safety just seconds before the bus swept by them - with one witness saying that Mr Tobin then "somersaulted" out of of the path of the oncoming Mercedes coach.
The coach had no passengers on board at the time.
Incredibly, the young girl - who had been brought to Monkstown to go fishing with her father and sister, Kayla - only sustained relatively minor injuries.
Garda Tim McSweeney, who attended the scene of carnage at the Strand Road in Monkstown, said he viewed CCTV security camera footage which captured the incident.
This included footage from a local pub and from the coach itself.
The Bus Éireann vehicle had only travelled 318 metres after a rest stop when the coach suddenly veered across the road at 39kmh, striking a low wall before hitting Fr Cronin and coming to a stop after impacting five parked cars.
"His actions (Mr Tobin) saved his life and his daughter's life," Garda Sweeney said.
"What he did was unbelievable - he grabbed the child (Vivienne) and flung the child (to safety) and then ran himself (out of the path of the bus).
"(One witness) said they saw a man somersaulting head over heels (away from the bus) - that was Mr Tobin."
Garda Ray Sweeney said he didn't like using the word "miracle" in such situations.
"But the fact that other people were not struck is remarkable," he said.
The inquest heard that Fr Cronin had gone for lunch to The Bosun in Monkstown on August 3 with the secretary of the Cork harbour parish, Catherine Concannon.
She said they left the restaurant just before 1.30pm and Fr Cronin was walking her to her car to check baptism documentation.
As Fr Cronin passed two parishioners outside the restaurant he commented on the glorious weather.
Rosemary O'Connor recalled that, just seconds before he was killed, Fr Cronin said: "Isn't it beautiful here - it is like the Caribbean."
Ms Concannon said, as they crossed the road, they became aware of the oncoming bus.
"We were about half way across the road. I saw a bus going across the road onto the footpath. It was scraping along the wall. I heard Fr Con say: 'What is he doing?' The next thing I remember was the bus going by me. I was screaming about where is Fr Con?"
Ms Concannon said she saw a young girl lying injured on the road - and people running to help after the bus came to a standstill after hitting parked cars.
When she ran over to help, she was horrified to see blood under the front of the bus.
An examination of CCTV footage indicated that Fr Cronin only realised he was in danger about one second before the bus hit him.
He tried to run to the other side of the road but the bus struck him and he was trapped under the front of the vehicle.
Ms Concannon had stopped in the roadway when she realised the danger - and the bus narrowly missed her.
Onlooker Keith Fitzgibbon ran to help and spotted the driver (Mr Wills) lying slumped and unresponsive over the steering wheel.
When he tried to assist the driver he could not get a pulse.
Garda McSweeney arrived at the scene and crawled under the bus to check on Fr Cronin.
The priest was lifeless and could only be removed from under the bus when it was lifted by special Cork Fire Brigade equipment.
Both the driver and priest were pronounced dead at the scene.
State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said that Fr Cronin died from blunt force trauma with severe trauma to his chest consistent with having been involved in a road traffic collision.
He had suffered multiple rib fractures, a haemo-thorax, a pulmonary contusion, multiple long bone fracture and a head injury
Mr Wills, who was driving the bus, died from coronary disease which resulted in a cardiac arrhythmia or abnormal electrical pulse in the heart.
"Cardiac arrhythmia can be the cause of sudden death. Sometimes there can be no symptoms whatsoever."
The inquest was told that Mr Wills had been assessed by a cardiologist in 2017 who expressed themselves happy with him.
Mr Wills had medical assessments in 2017, 2018 and 2019 with absolutely no contraindications.
He was described as an experienced and hugely respected Bus Éireann driver.
The coroner said it was "a highly unusual and very rare" occurrence - but said the public still needed to be reassured that such full medical assessment systems were in place in respect of heavy vehicle operations.
Mr O'Connell expressed his deepest sympathies to the Cronin and Wills families and said the tragedy had deeply shocked the tightknit harbour area.
The coroner personally knew Fr Cronin and described him as "a tremendous character - an absolute breath of fresh air."
Members of both families attended the inquest.
Fr Cronin, a Kiltegan Father, was a native of Kealkill in west Cork and celebrated 40 years of his ministry in 2019.
He had been based in the Cork Harbour parishes since 2012 and, just days before his death, expressed delight in not being transferred to another parish by the bishop.
Bishop of Cork & Ross Dr Fintan Gavin said Fr Con touched so many lives through his devoted ministry.
ACCUSED | Two senior republicans among seven accused of DCI John Caldwell’s attempted murder
'VITAL COG' | Dublin personal trainer is charged with having €3.9 million worth of cannabis
Shots fired | Pat Spillane: Why Donal Óg Cusack needs to zip it – and the county ticking all the boxes to win Sam
Breaking | Young driver dies after early morning crash in Co Derry
Heal-ing Wounds | Una Healy pokes fun at throuple rumours in new TV interview
Old age pervert | Community in shock after ‘gentle’ pensioner (77) exposed as serial flasher
RIP | Funeral of Louth teenager Vincent Dillon to take place this week
RIP | Man dies in workplace accident while blasting rock in Co Donegal
LOVE IRELAND | Dublin woman announced as contestant for new season of Love Island
Court appearance | Man (40) charged with possession of pipe bombs after Tallaght Garda Station evacuated