Wednesday 19 December 2018

Cyclist died after mother took eyes off road to help her children

Maria Harkin, pictured, drove into Donal O’Brien by accident. Picture: Cork Courts Limited
Maria Harkin, pictured, drove into Donal O’Brien by accident. Picture: Cork Courts Limited
Maria Harkin drove into Donal O’Brien, pictured, by accident

Ralph Riegel

A young mother wept as it was revealed she fatally struck a cyclist after momentarily taking her eyes off a busy road to help her children in the back take tags off their brand new toys.

Cyclist and father of one Donal O'Brien (45) was killed instantly when his bicycle was struck from behind on the N40 South Ring Road near Curraheen in Cork last year.

Maria Harkin (38) received a 12-month suspended prison sentence at Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.

Harkin of Weston View, Carrigaline, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to careless driving causing death at Junction 1 of the N40 in Cork on May 14 2017.

Her two young children were in the back seat of her car when she took her eyes off the road and ran into the back of the bicycle being used by Mr O'Brien, a well-known garage operator and motor sports enthusiast in Cork.

She wept as Judge Sean O Donnabháin imposed a suspended sentence and disqualified her from driving for five years as he said it was "carelessness of a very high order".

Traumatic

The judge said she should never have allowed herself to be distracted from driving in such a fashion on a busy road.

Mr O'Brien's widow Sandra and only child Nicole offered victim impact evidence which the judge said was "harrowing and hugely traumatic".

"Life without Donal is very lonely. I am totally lost without him," Mrs O'Brien wept.

She said her family were heartbroken by the fact her husband was just 10 minutes from home when he was struck and killed - and his family have to pass the spot where he died on a daily basis.

"I know this woman did not set out to deliberately knock Donal off his bike and to kill him that day, but that is what she did," she said.

"It breaks my heart to know that Donal will never get the chance to walk his one and only daughter down the aisle."

She revealed her husband had been discussing retiring so he could spend more time with his wife, daughter and extended family.

Mr O'Brien's daughter Nicole said the events of that May 14 day were "horrible" for their entire family.

"It breaks my heart - it is a real-life nightmare.

"I feel cheated about not having my dad."

Sergeant Pat Lyons said Harkin had co-operated fully with gardaí, had made immediate admissions and asked gardaí to express her sympathies and condolences to the O'Brien family.

He said Harkin told them she had just left a Cork toy shop with her children and was distracted by them, taking her eyes momentarily off the road.

"It was a momentary lapse in concentration with catastrophic consequences," Sgt Lyons said.

However, Judge O Donnabháin said that all motorists have a duty of care to other road users.

"This case should bring to mind the vulnerability of cyclists on the road and that drivers need to be spatially aware," he said.

"This man was doing everything right," Judge O Donnabháin said.

"He was out cycling trying to keep himself fit. He was fully and properly equipped from the safety point of view," he added.

"A cyclist [like this] should shine out like a lighthouse in a bog."

Irish Independent

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