'I keep asking myself, why did I suggest the walk,' says heartbroken mother
* Driver sentenced to seven years in jail - with final three suspended
* Driver apologises for family's loss
* Little Kate Gilmore (2) and baby Grace were out for a walk with their father John
* The car, driven by John O'Connor, lost control and veered into hard shoulder
* It struck the little girls' twin buggy
* Both children suffered 'catastrophic injuries', court told
* Both little girls were pronounced dead shortly after admission to hospital
* He had been warned by doctors beforehand to stop driving after suffering epileptic fits
Published 14/03/2014 | 15:21
A 41-year-old man with a lifelong history of epilepsy, has been sentenced to seven years in prison with the final three years suspended, for causing the deaths of two baby sisters near Tuam two years ago.
Two-year-old Kate Gilmore and her 12-week-old sister Grace, were out for a stroll with their father John, and were both asleep at 12.35pm when their twin buggy was hit head-on by a Toyota Avensis car which had veered into the hard shoulder on the N17, near Tuam, on Sunday, October 21, 2012.
John O'Connor, with an address at Waterslade Downs,Tuam, pleaded guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal to a single charge of dangerous driving at the Demesne, Tuam on 21 October, 2012, which caused the deaths of Kate and Grace Gilmore.
State prosecutor, Patrick McGrath SC, told the sentence hearing today that O'Connor had been involved in another collision moments beforehand where he had driven through a red light and collided with a jeep.
He left the scene of that accident and was observed by other motorists swerving and driving erratically. He almost collided with a jogger on the hard shoulder seconds before his car "ploughed" into Mr Gilmore and his two little daughters.
The girls suffered "catastrophic injuries" and were rushed to hospital where they were pronounced dead a short time later.
Mr Gilmore was also treated for injuries in hospital.
The accused was given medication at the scene by a passing doctor who thought he was having an epileptic fit and was also removed to hospital.
O'Connor was arrested and interviewed the following day. He had no recollection of either accident.
Superintendent Gearoid Begley said the accused told Gardai that he had been given medical advice not to drive in June, 2012.
He told them he had suffered from epileptic seizures all his life and had brain surgery at Beaumont Hospital in 2004 to alleviate the condition. He began driving on medical advice because he had remained seizure-free but inFebruary, 2012, the seizures began again.
He had seizures in March, April and in June, by which time he was told by his doctors not to drive until he was seizure-free for a year.
Victim impact statements from parents, John and Michelle Gilmore were read by Mr McGrath to a hushed courtroom.
In his statement, John Gilmore said four people died that day but only two corpses were buried. He said he and his wife would have to carry the pain of their loss with them for the rest of their lives.
"We had two children to put to bed on the Saturday night and had two corpses the next day,” he said.
Michelle Gilmore said in her statement that their two beautiful daughters had been cruelly taken from them and their lives were shattered forever.
The family had just returned from holiday and she had suggested John take the girls for a walk so she might unpack and get the dinner ready.
"I keep asking myself, why did I suggest the walk,"she said.
O'Connor, who has been diagnosed with a borderline learning disability, took the stand and apologised to the family.
"I think the Gilmores must feel a million below zero and nothing I say is going to seem the right thing," he said.
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