A grandfather wept as a woman driver admitted making phone calls and sending a text message minutes before a horrific three-car collision that claimed the life of his "wonderful wife" of nearly 50 years.
Sinead Timoney (30) was given a three-month suspended prison sentence and disqualified from driving for two years after admitting careless driving in September 2011 on the N71 Cork-Bandon road.
Donal O'Leary sobbed as he said the tragedy cost him "the love of my life".
But he asked the court not to jail Timoney as he said he did not want "to see another life ruined".
Timoney, a civil engineer, insisted to Cork Circuit Criminal Court that while she had been using her phone on the journey home in her Hyundai Santa Fe, she was not on it when she lost control of her vehicle and swerved across the road, colliding with two cars.
Donal and Mary O'Leary (67) were in one of those cars. Mr O'Leary was badly injured but his wife died at the scene.
He told the court: "In one plain moment my life and the life of my family was shattered.
"Through the actions of an inattentive driver (the car) left her side of the road and crashed into my car.
"I lost the person that meant the most to me and the person who was the love of my life and my constant companion for 48 years.
"My life since has been one of constant sadness and hurt. Mary was a wonderful wife, a mother and grandmother.
"No expression of remorse was ever delivered to me or my family until last Thursday, when the offending driver pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving and then tendered an apology to me," he sobbed.
Timoney pleaded guilty to careless driving at Curranure, Inishannon, Co Cork, on September 19, 2011.
She had been charged with dangerous driving causing death but the State accepted her plea to a lesser charge.
She cried as she apologised for her delay in expressing remorse to the O'Leary family.
"After the accident I was mentally and physically in a very bad way . . . when criminal proceedings began . . . (I felt) an apology would not seem genuine or heartfelt because of the position I was in," she said.
"(I want to say) how sorry I am for their loss. I always hoped to speak with them when everything was over."
Siobhan Lankford told the court that the State "could not establish definitively that she (Timoney) was on the phone at the time".
Timoney, of Millcove, Rosscarbery, Co Cork, admitted making two calls and sending one text as she drove home from Cork city that evening but insisted she was not on her phone at the exact time of the accident.
Judge Sean O Donnabhain heard that there was a three-minute period between when her last call ended and when a motorist rang emergency services about the fatal accident.
In the 12 months before the accident, there had been nine separate accidents at the stretch of road in question.
A number of motorists complained about a lack of grip on the road surface near a bend.
Timoney had only been driving the SUV, which belonged to her employer, for one week before the fatal collision.