Five injured people stuck in a collapsed lift which had plummeted three floors to the basement of a Kerry hotel shouted for help for 15 minutes before the doors were prised open, the High Court has heard.
Patricia O’Leary said she felt her leg breaking on impact and she had to be cut from the lift wreckage.
“It was a very violent drop to the floor,” she told Mr Justice Michael Hanna.
The former garda sergeant is one of five from the same extended family including her husband Andrew Meehan also a garda sergeant who have sued over the accident as they tried to return to their rooms in the Killarney Plaza Hotel after a wedding ceremony on July 9th, 2011.
The mother of two, who five years after the accident had to retire from An Garda Siochana on medical grounds aged 37, was giving evidence in the second day of the action.
“ The lift tried to dock and couldn’t at the floor. It shuddered and there was a loud bang. The lift dropped slightly and stopped for a split second. Then it just dropped to the concrete basement floor,” she told the court.
She added: “ We were dazed and confused. The walls of the lift came in around us. I could see Andrew and Kevin were badly injured. It was very traumatic,” she said.
She added when she reached for the emergency button and phone the panel came down on top of her. Her brother-in-law Paul Meehan helped pull the doors open once two porters found them and held the lift walls off her until the emergency services arrived.
Emergency equipment she said had to be brought into the basement on a luggage trolley.
Ms O’Leary (42) of Co Meath along with her husband, Garda Sergeant Andrew Meehan and the Meehan brothers Paul and Kevin and Kevin’s wife Jennie Wong have sued the hotel owners, Shawcove Ltd with registered offices at Castleisland, Co Kerry and companies involved in installing and maintaining lifts Ellickson Engineering Ltd, in receivership of Kilmurry, Waterford; Kilell Ltd also of Kilmurry, Waterford and Otis Ltd, Naas Road Business Park, Dublin and Otis Elevator Ireland Ltd of the same address as well as lift components manufacturer Daldoss Elevetronic Spa of Valsugana, Italy.
Ms O’Leary’s case is being heard by the court first.
It is claimed there was a failure to ensure the intended pathway from the car park was safe and free from hazard. And there was a failure, it is claimed to install a proper functioning lift from the car park to the hotel.
The court heard liability was conceded in the case in 2019 and the cases are before the court for assessment of damages only.
Opening the case Richard Kean SC with Barney Quirke SC said never once has an apology been offered for the incident which he said caused such catastrophic injuries. Ms O’Leary’s forced retirement from the Gardai because of pain he said has had a catastrophic effect on her and her family and her injuries have been life changing.
Counsel said she has also suffered an array of additional losses including past and future loss of earnings and lost opportunity of promotion.
Counsel said their doctors will say Ms O’Leary has complex regional pain syndrome and suffers from post-traumatic stress and has flashbacks.
Mr Kean told the court engineering company Ellickson Engineering Ltd now in receivership was fined €750,000 in 2017 after it was found guilty at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court of a single breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act over the installation of the hotel lift in and around April 2004.
Counsels said Ms O’Leary who suffered a fractured leg and along with ankle and knee and chest injuries now has to use a spinal cord stimulator and she has pain every day.
The case before Mr Justice Michael Hanna continues.