A young motorsports enthusiast who was killed in a rural car smash has been described as a man who “lived for racing”.
Jonathan Buckley was killed when he lost control of the BMW M3 convertible he was driving, which ended up resting upside down in a field in rural Co Antrim.
The Dunadry motorbike racer was aged 27, and had been named Ireland’s most promising circuit racer in 2007.
The coroner John Leckey told the family assembled at May’s Chambers in Belfast yesterday that he too was a motor-racing fan, and that Mr Buckley appeared to have been an “incredibly talented motorcyclist”.
He ruled that the crash had occurred due to excess speed.
It happened as he travelled in the direction of Larne along the undulating Braepark Road, on the night of October 14, 2013.
The court heard evidence from a road crash investigator, who suggested that as the vehicle went over a crest in the road it could have lost traction, and that any steering movements performed would then have been accentuated once it was fully back on the surface.
The vehicle struck a telegraph pole and landed in a nearby field.
Although it was not possible to say what speed it was travelling when it lost control, it was moving at up to 60mph when it hit the field.
The court heard from nearby resident Karen Reid, who was alerted to the fact something was wrong when a loose telegraph wire began banging on her window.
When she emerged she saw a man – a surviving passenger called William Kerr – whose head was covered with blood.
“He said something like: ‘Mate. Up there. He’s unconscious’,” the court was told.
She headed to the site of the impact, and found the car “embedded” in a debris-strewn field – a scene she described as “like a train wreck”.
She saw Mr Buckley inside the car, but could not feel a pulse, and noticed he had a “massive injury on the top of his head”. He died at the scene.
Jonathan was born in Sidcup, Kent, and his father Keith was a motorsports enthusiast who met mother Debbie Deane in Northern Ireland.
The father and son had been living together since about 2001, and they worked together at Keith Buckley’s auto business near Antrim town.
Jonathan had been riding motorbikes since around age seven, and was on the motor-cross circuit before he was even in his teens.
Although he had suffered some broken bones due to the sport, he was in good health, and was neither a drinker nor a smoker. He was unmarried, and had two sisters.
Mr Buckley told the court: “Jonny was incredibly popular with all the people he came across in the shop, and on the racing circuit. He was gifted... he lived for racing.”
The roof had been compressed in the crash, and his father told the court: “I think the fact it was a convertible rather than a saloon didn’t help at all.”
But crash investigator Lindsay McCormick said: “I can tell you honestly that I’ve been at fatal collisions with non-convertibles, and unfortunately those people have died as well.”
Speaking to the News Letter afterwards, Mr Buckley said: “Jonny loved speed. But he knew the road. He was a mile from his mother’s home when he crashed.”
He added: “He was a humble lad; a heart of gold and extremely humble. When he won races, he was always low key. He’s missed by so many people.”
After his death, his organs were donated, and his family said that parts of his heart were given to three other people.