Haulier faces huge bill and court fine after oversized load of straw closed Limerick Tunnel for three days

The truck became wedged for a time in the tunnel. Photo: Limerick Live 95
The truck became wedged for a time in the tunnel. Photo: Limerick Live 95
Stock image. Photo O'Gorman Photography.

Court Reporter

A haulage contractor who caused more than €100,000 worth of damage and who forced the closure of the Limerick Tunnel for three days has been fined €5,000.

Tim Walsh, aged 58, of Kilruane, Nenagh had pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 138 of the Railway Safety Act relating to an incident on September 11, 2016.

During a sentencing hearing in November, Sergeant Cathal O’Neill said Mr Walsh was transporting a load of straw to Crusheen, County Clare which was five metres in height – 35 centimetres  above the maximum height allowed in the Limerick Tunnel.

He said the defendant, who travelled around 100m into the tunnel, would have been “confronted by a considerable amount of signage” as he approached the Limerick Tunnel alerting him to his oversized load.

“There were flashing signs informing the driver to divert, he chose to ignore those signs,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

There were lengthy delays and major disruption to traffic following the incident with thousands of cars being diverted through the city. 

The truck became wedged for a time in the tunnel. Photo: Limerick Live 95
The truck became wedged for a time in the tunnel. Photo: Limerick Live 95

Around €115,000 in damage was caused inside the tunnel and the operator of Limerick Tunnel had to pay more than €100,000 in penalties associated with the closure.

During interview Mr Walsh, who has a number of convictions under the Road Traffic Act, told gardai he had never used the Limerick Tunnel previously and assumed it was the same height as motorway bridges.

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When asked if he had measured the height of the load he told gardai he had “eyeballed it” before setting off. 

Barrister Kenny Kerins said his client – a father of four – has been driving for more than 30 years and that there were no other issues relating to his driving on the day.

"He was not driving recklessly,” he said adding Mr Walsh only realised there was a problem when he saw barriers coming down behind him.

“It is not a case of a flagrant disregard, it was a miscalculation,” said the barrister who said it was his client who had called 999.

Imposing sentence, Judge Tom O’Donnell noted a substantial amount of damage had been caused and that Mr Walsh’s actions had “caused mayhem” for a significant number of motorists.

He said he was conscious the defendant had previously indicated he would rather go to jail than receive a disqualification.

While Mr Walsh co-operated fully with gardai, the judge said it was an aggravating factor that he appeared to have taken a “very casual glance” at his truck before departing.

Judge O’Donnell noted that an insurance claim relating to the incident has been settled for €205,000.

After imposing a €5,000 fine, the judge said he would exercise his discretion and not impose a driving ban.

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