Friday 2 December 2016

Inquest into the deaths of eight men killed in Ireland’s worst car crash dramatically halted today after legal rows over witness statements

Greg Harkin

Published 24/02/2016 | 10:39

Shaun Kelly, who killed a pensioner and seven of his best friends in the worst car crash in the history of the State. Inset are crash victims (clockwise from top left) : Hugh Friel, Eamonn McDaid, James McEleney, Mark McLaughlin, Paul Doherty, PJ McLaughlin, Ciaran Sweeney and Damien McLaughlin. The DPP is set to appeal Shaun Kelly's sentence.
Shaun Kelly, who killed a pensioner and seven of his best friends in the worst car crash in the history of the State. Inset are crash victims (clockwise from top left) : Hugh Friel, Eamonn McDaid, James McEleney, Mark McLaughlin, Paul Doherty, PJ McLaughlin, Ciaran Sweeney and Damien McLaughlin. The DPP is set to appeal Shaun Kelly's sentence.

AN inquest into the deaths of eight men killed in Ireland’s worst car crash was dramatically halted today after legal rows over the contents of witness statements.

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The men died in a two-car crash in Inishowen, Co Donegal, on July 11, 2010.

Coroner Dr John Madden made the ruling at the hearing in Buncrana after some family members and a solicitor representing driver Shaun Kelly asked for expert reports to be admitted in the case.

Kelly, now 27, from Hill Road, Ballymagan, Buncrana, Co Donegal, is serving an eight year sentence for causing the deaths by dangerous driving after the original sentence was doubled by the Court of Appeal last December.

Seven of Kelly’s friends and a pensioner died in the crash on July 11, 2010.

The coroner also issued a summons for the appearance of Mrs Anne McGilloway, whose car was also at the scene of crash.

She had been due to appear as a witness today but informed the coroner 45 minutes before the hearing that she was unable to attend.

Dr Madden told the families that he wanted to assure them that he wished to give them all the answers they wanted in relation to how the men died.

Those killed in the crash, Ireland’s biggest ever single loss of life in a road tragedy, were pensioner Hugh Friel, (66), from Urris, Clonmany and Kelly’s friends Eamon McDaid, 22 of Ballymagan, Buncrana; Mark McLaughlin (21) of Ballinahone, Fahan; Paul Doherty (19), of Ardagh, Ballyliffin; Ciaran Sweeney (19), of Ballyliffin; PJ McLaughlin (21), of Rockstown, Burnfoot; James McEleney (23), of Meenaduff, Clonmany and Damien McLaughlin (21), of Umricam, Buncrana.

Solicitor Ciaran Mac Lochlainn, representing Shaun Kelly, has submitted a request to include a report commissioned from an engineer for Kelly’s defence in the Circuit Court.

Barrister Stephen Byrne, representing the Garda Commissioner, objected to the request, saying that the defence report had not been used by Kelly in his Circuit Court case as he had pleaded guilty to all charges.

He told Dr Madden that should the coroner accede to the request, the prosecution’s own expert engineer’s report should also be considered by the inquest.

This report, said Mr Byrne, had been given to Kelly’s defence team, represented by senior and junior counsel, and Kelly had pleaded guilty to causing the deaths by dangerous driving.

Mr Byrne said that whatever decision the coroner takes tomorrow the inquest would not be entitled to lay blame as set out in legislation.

Philomena McEleney, whose son James died in the crash, told Dr Madden that the 23-year-old was her “flesh and blood and we have the right to know exactly what happened to him”.

Earlier pathologist Dr Gerry O'Dowd told hearing that the vast majority of the deaths were caused by catastrophic injuries and those who died had done so instantaneously.

Other witnesses gave evidence of seeing Kelly's northern-registered Volksvagen Passat driving at speed just before the collision.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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