An inquest in Co Kerry has been told that a 26-year-old nurse died after finishing a 12-hour overnight shift, when the vehicle she was driving crossed the N21 near Castleisland in early October, 2019.

Kerrie Browne was driving her Volkswagen Golf home to Brosna at around 8.10am.

Her car crossed the white line and drifted into the path of an oncoming Toyota Land Cruiser, driven by John Power of Abbeyfeale.

Mr Power, a self-employed engineer, took evasive action, including slowing to a crawl and driving onto the crash barrier to try to avoid the on-coming car, the inquest was told.

The car's speedometer was at 120kph after impact.

Mr Power's vehicle was pushed back over three metres from the point of impact. Witnesses saw the silver Volkswagen lift one metre off the ground and end up turned back towards Castleisland.

The driver of another vehicle had also swerved to avoid Ms Browne’s Volkswagen.

Both vehicles in the collision were in good order and road conditions were dry and it was daylight, garda examiners said.

No alcohol or drugs were involved, and Mr Power had undergone a breath test and it was negative.

The ambulance crew who attended the scene shortly after the incident knew the nurse from her work at University Hospital Kerry, the inquest in Tralee heard.

Extensive efforts were made to resuscitate Ms Browne, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Death was due to trauma, due to a road traffic collision, the post mortem examination found.

The garda who examined the scene of the collision said research had been done into sleep-related accidents on roads.

The garda added that Ms Browne fitted nearly all the criteria, since there was no sign of braking by the Volkswagen, as well as the road conditions, her being under 30 and the time of the accident.

'Terribly tragedy'

Coroner Helen Lucey remarked on the silence in the court room throughout the inquest reflecting the "terrible tragedy".

"This was a 26-year-old girl at the start of her career," Ms Lucey said.

Mr Power would also have suffered trauma, the coroner said.

She commended the witnesses and those who helped at the scene, including a nurse who came upon it and held Ms Browne's hand, as well as the ambulance and fire crews and a doctor who attended the scene.

"Everything that was possible was done, but, unfortunately, Kerrie did not survive the accident," the coroner said.

The evidence from the scene investigator was of classic symptoms of a road traffic accident when someone was tired, the coroner remarked. Therefore, she was making a recommendation: everyone should take note not to drive when tired.

Ms Lucey said she was obliged to point this out in the hope future accidents would be prevented.

A solicitor on behalf of Mr Power and his wife offered their deepest sympathies to the family of Ms Browne, as did the coroner, gardaí and the pathologist.

Afterwards, Andrea Browne, Kerrie's older sister, said she wished to reinforce the coroner's advice.

Her sister had come off a 12-hour shift and driving after a night shift was a particular concern among nurses, she had learned.

Kerrie had trained at Whittington Hospital in north London and was a qualified paediatric nurse. She had been working in University Hospital Kerry's Emergency Department for just six weeks when the accident occurred.

Andrea also thanked road safety group PARC and founder Susan Gray for their support and attention.