For Those With Skin in the Game

by Fintan Dunne, rta0 Founder

If the police officer had pounded hard on our front door at 7a.m., or knocked a little longer, then my mother, two younger brothers and I might have got to see the father of our small family before he died.

But we four lay in our beds asleep while he lay on his back just miles away on a frosty January road.  He had an early morning contract to deliver Irish Independent newspapers to outlets across South Dublin. Occupationally not seat-belted, his van had skidded across the Bray Road in Dublin to collide head-on with an oncoming truck.

Deceased at 51, he left a widowed spouse, a youngest son at 12, another at 16 and I, the eldest, at 21.  The trauma was life defining.

On our way to Loughlinstown hospital that morning after a vague 7:50a.m. phone call, we drove past the mangled remains of the delivery van . My mother quietly said “My, God.” She knew then.  Later she knew for sure.

We had been a close-knit, artistic family of five. Now we were four.

The Echo

It’s twenty years later. I’m running a software development firm. All around me are banks of computers, servers and communications paraphernalia. Already, by 10am, it’s hotter than hell, because the equipment is pumping out heat.

The phone rings.

“I’m looking for Fintan Dunne.” A laconic, slow drawl of a voice.

“Yes, …. speaking.”

“Sergeant O’Rourke here, Fintan, in Enniskerry.” A long, silent pause.

Days ago, Joe- my youngest brother had phoned to say that our middle sibling, Declan had come home with pants wet up to the knee and was days previously in the early a.m. found in the hills above the Dundrum family home.

“You know why I’m calling you…., don’t you?,” said the sergeant.

Ah…no…. Ah, Jesus, no.

“Yeah……..,” I whisper. The fans whine, trying to shift hot air.

He breaks the silence. “Can you meet me at the station?”

When I get to Enniskerry and meet the Sergeant, he is a breath of fresh air. Down to earth. Which is just what I need. He is so matter of fact, you would swear we were going for a burger and not to the mountain roads above Enniskerry village to collect the car in which Declan had taken his own life.

It has a flat battery, because with the lights being on, they drained the battery after the petrol ran out. These are the mundane aspects of a suicide. We view the gorse-fringed clearing where Declan had taken his own life.

His suicide was multi-factorial, but in truth the trauma of those events a score of years earlier had left their mark. The accident had reached out across time to claim it’s second fatality.

That’s the way of it. Ask others bereaved by the trauma of road accidents or suicide. I’ve known both. The suddenness of loss detonates shock waves lasting decades. People live on, never the same. Direct your empathy to my late mother -who lost more than I can comprehend.

We had been a close-knit family of four. Now we were three.

Ending the Carnage

“Are you sure you will be able to drive it?” inquires the Sergeant. The car reeks incredibly of carbon monoxide fumes. He and I have it running.

“Yeah….” I answer casually with a wave of my hand. I sit in and belt up. There is a part of me tough as a Vietnam vet; a war landscape most of my life.

From Enniskerry, I drove down to identify my brother Declan’s remains in the same Loughlinstown mortuary which had held my father twenty years earlier. One event, two consequences.

I’ve seen the fallen, touched the carnage and it’s touched me. I have skin in this game. But I’m only one among many touched by tragedy. However, sentiment won’t prevent tomorrow’s tragedies.

So here’s good news for those who want to end the carnage of destroyed lives and fractured families. Good news for all who have skin in the game.

I became an Apple ‘tech’ pioneer in 1981. Reinvention via human factors technology is the very blood in my veins. So I began to invent a smartphone app which prevents road accidents. Smartphones are just widespread enough to facilitate a road safety smartphone app which would avert a multitude of tragic outcomes.