Verdict of accidental death returned at inquest of tragic Zoe (8) who died in horrific crash
A Cork coroner's inquest returned a verdict of accidental death for an eight year old girl who died in an horrific traffic collision as she returned with her mother from a dream summer holiday.
Zoe Scannell (8) died instantly when the car in which she was a rear seat passenger collided with a vehicle being driven by Leaving Cert student, Ian Lawlor O'Donovan (18), which had veered onto the wrong side of the road.
The inquest highlighted the dangers posed by two people using a single car seat-belt.
Coroner Frank O'Connell was told the accident occurred at 3pm on June 26 2014 at Owenahincha Cross in west Cork.
Zoe, from Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, was sitting on an adult's lap in the rear seat of the Nissan car with one seat beat covering both.
Her mother, Elisha Scannell, was critically injured in the accident and spent 11 days recovering in Cork University Hospital (CUH).
Mr Lawlor O'Donovan, who did not attend the inquest in person, is now said to be having "a very difficult time" coping with the aftermath of the tragedy.
The teen pleaded guilty before Cork Circuit Criminal Court last April to dangerous driving causing death.
Mr Lawlor O'Donovan received a two year suspended prison sentence after Elisha said she did not want to see him go to jail for an accident which resulted from a simple mistake.
The court heard that excessive speed was not a factor in the accident - the young man had simply lost control of his mother's Audi car and it had crossed onto the wrong side and impacted with the oncoming Nissan.
The Nissan contained the male driver, his partner, their two sons as well as Zoe and Alisha.
All were wearing seat-belts though one belt covered two people, one of whom was Zoe.
Alisha was airlifted to CUH with critical injuries and when she woke up she instantly realised that Zoe was dead.
Garda forensic collision investigator, Ray Sweeney, said that seat belts are designed for use by just one person.
He explained that when two people are using a single seat-belt during a collision, the person in front takes a massive force from the second individual.
It is a particularly powerful force if the front individual is a child.
The inquest jury was told that Zoe suffered massive blunt force trauma to her chest and died instantly.
They returned a verdict of accidental death.
Mr O'Connell described it as a truly tragic accident which had life-changing consequences for all involved.
Speaking previously, Elisha said she has forgiven Mr Lawlor O'Donovan of Grove, Ardagh East, Rosscarbery, Cork.
The teen apologised in person to her and the court heard last April that he now thinks of Zoe every single day.
“I had never seen him, I had never seen what he looked like. He walked past me, and I started crying," Elisha said.
"He was just a child. He looked a child, he was so young and so vulnerable, his heart was broken just as much as ours was," she told RTE.
“It gave me peace that he felt such remorse and he felt as bad as we did."
“The two of us were just alone inside in that room together. He said he was sorry, I said ‘I forgive you’, and Zoe forgives you. I didn’t want him to go to jail, he did nothing wrong."
"It was just a mistake. I passed him on one of Zoe’s loom bands. He thinks about Zoe all the time. I hope he can get on with his life now, because he’s only a child,” she said.