Nun’s car drifted on to wrong side of road before fatal crash, inquest hears

Witness explains how she observed the car of Sr Cecilia Keating (85) before it collided with a tractor

An 85-year-old nun died from injuries after her car crossed the white line and crashed into a farmer’s oncoming JCB tractor on a west Clare road, an inquest has heard.

At the Clare coroner’s court, eyewitness Nuala Hayes told the inquest in a deposition how she was driving behind Sr Cecilia Keating’s grey Kia Picanto car and started beeping the horn and flashing lights “as I knew there was something wrong” when she saw the car on the wrong side of the road.

“I continued beeping and flashing and the car came back on to the left hand side of the road,” Ms Hayes said.

After Sr Keating’s car went around a bend, it started to move back on to the wrong side before colliding with the front right wheel of an oncoming yellow JCB tractor, Ms Hayes said.


The JCB tractor “was either stationary or moving very slowly”, she added.

Ms Hayes stopped and got out of her own car and said that she saw an unresponsive female in the Picanto. “I was talking to the driver and said ‘we are here, don’t worry’ but I knew she was gone,” Ms Hayes said.

At the time of the incident on March 7th, 2023, Sr Keating was living at Castletroy in Limerick and had served as a nun for 50 years in Australia.

Farmer and contractor Christopher Keane (50) of Bella, Kilkee, said he could see Sr Keating’s car “weaving on the road”.

The driver of the JCB tractor said: “I slowed my vehicle and started to mount the ditch. I was in the ditch as far as I could go but I knew that the car was going to collide with my vehicle.”

Sr Keating’s nephew, Bernard Keating, praised Mr Keane’s “great thinking” in lifting the tractor’s shovel by three feet before impact.

Mr Keating said if Mr Keane hadn’t raised the shovel, his aunt “would have been destroyed”.

Describing his aunt as “a lovely lady”, Mr Keating said the family had questions over what happened to her in the stretch of road before impact.

“She was very careful, she wasn’t a fast driver. She was 85 but looked only 72 or 73 – she was very fresh for her age mentally and physically.”

The Garda report found there were no braking marks before impact.

Clare County coroner Isobel O’Dea said there was no evidence Sr Cecilia suffered a cardiac incident or a stroke prior to impact. She said: “It might have been a lapse of concentration.”

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times