Horrific injuries | 

Mum who survived horror crash calls for assessments for drivers suffering psychosis

'You might as well give somebody who is not of sound mind a gun and saying ‘go play’...'

Maeve Kelly shows a photo of the car after her crash.

Alan Sherry

A woman who was lucky to escape with her life when a man with serious mental health issues crashed into her car head-on has called for legislation to temporarily remove licences from people suffering psychotic episodes.

Maeve Kelly and her teenager daughter Abbie were left with life-long physical and mental scars after Gerard Roan switched off his vehicle's lights and swerved to the other side of the road, crashing head-on into their car in Roscommon in March 2016.

The crash came just weeks after the HSE was warned that Roan, who lost his life in the incident, would kill someone or be killed himself due to his mental health issues.

The circumstances surrounding the horrific crash on the M6 in Galway earlier this month which claimed the lives of Karzan Sabah, his wife Shahen Qasm, their eight-month-old daughter Lina and Jonasz Lach - who drove head-on into the family's vehicle while travelling the wrong way down the motorway - reminded Maeve of what happened to her.

She said while the full information had to emerge about the Galway crash, she had read reports in relation to Mr Lach suffering from mental health issues.

The horrific aftermath of Maeve's crash.

"In terms of a crash, what happened in Galway brings it back," Maeve told the Sunday World.

"I can't comment on that man or his case because I don't know what his story was. I'm only going by media reports and I'm saying this could have been avoided if that's the case.

"If a person is having a psychotic episode, having a car is like having a time bomb - it's a tool for destruction. You might as well give somebody who is not of sound mind a gun and saying 'go play'."

Mr Roan switched off his lights before driving to the other side of the road towards Maeve's car and when she tried to move out of the way he followed her and crashed head-on.

"It happened at 11.20pm when it was dark. The man coming towards me overtook traffic. I knew I had nowhere to go. I literally had nowhere to go. I knew there was going to be an impact. It was absolutely terrifying.

"I broke nearly everything. I shattered my right leg; I have a metal plate from my hip to my ankle; I fractured the left leg from the knee joint; I fractured my back; I broke my neck; I broke several ribs, I had a traumatic brain injury and a host of internal injuries as well.

"You come out of hospital and you're nurturing your injuries and you're not thinking [about mental trauma].

"Breaks do heal but there's a host of other stuff you have to deal with.

"That happened to me in 2016 and I live with that nightmare for the rest of my life."

Karzan Sabah, his wife Shahen Qasm and their eight-month-old daughter Lina died in the M6 crash

Maeve's daughter Abbie was also badly injured in the crash and both of them suffered from PTSD.

Another daughter was left traumatised after arriving at the scene after the crash.

"My other daughter arrived at the scene of the crash. She had a different perspective. Myself and Abbie were in the situation. I had no recollection of it.

"I didn't know my children, I didn't know my family members because of the brain injury. My daughter who came upon the crash had a different viewpoint. She was looking at complete carnage and she was only 16."

Maeve has been calling for legislation to be passed that will grant powers to temporarily remove a driving licence from someone if they are having a psychotic episode.

"I want to ask the Minister for Justice, the Minster for Transport and the Minister for Mental Health to do something.

"Mental health is not backed by legislation. You have to make the RSA aware if you have certain issues, but the guidelines around extreme mental health conditions are not back by legislation.

"It should be something that if someone sees a member of their family who is known to have unresolved mental health issues and if they think they're having a psychotic episode that they can take the keys of their car for their safety or allow gardai to take the keys to the car.

"If the guards can take the keys of your car if you're over the limit and they think you're impaired, why is there not the same law in place if you're having a psychotic episode or on a copious amount of drugs?"

Maeve says the recent crash in Galway brought back memories.

Maeve has already spoken to the Road Safety Authority which referred her to Traffic Medicine Ireland, which said the issue would be looked at.

"I believe the man who drove into me would be alive if there was legislation that allowed his family take the keys of his car or the doctors could report that this man shouldn't be on the road and the guards could take the keys of his car.

"His family had contacted the mental health team he was under.

"They had done everything they could to prevent it. There is no legislation to back it so they were running up against a brick wall.

"If I can save one life or one family from going through what we went through as a family, it will be worthwhile."

Maeve said she wanted to clarify that she was only talking about temporarily removing licences from people enduring psychotic episodes.

"I'm not talking about somebody on anti- depressants.

"I'm talking about people who are having psychotic episodes who get into a car and haven't a clue what they're doing."

She said she was in no way trying to stigmatise people suffering from mental health issues and said more resources are needed in Ireland to help people with their mental health.

"I am not targeting people with mental health. There is enough stigma with mental health and I think the stigma should be lifted. I definitely feel the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Transport and mental health need to come together as a team and bring in guidelines around extreme mental health conditions and driving.

"If the gardai and doctors and GPs feel they have a patient who is having psychotic episodes and are unable to function, their eligibility to drive should be assessed.

In her statement at his inquest Mr Roan's sister Stella said her brother John had warned the HSE just weeks before the crash that "it was only a matter of time before he got killed or ended up killing someone else through no fault of his own".

The jury at the inquest recorded an open verdict, saying Mr Roan died in a road traffic accident.

They recommended "there be a serious review of the criteria in the medical supervision of mentally ill patients."

Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices