The widow of a father of two who was killed in a head-on collision when a van veered into the path of his motorcycle has told how his death was a devastating blow which left their daughter to walk up the aisle without him at her wedding just weeks later.
Christopher Fitzgerald (53) was killed instantly when the vehicle being driven by Michael Dunne (65), from Mountmellick, Co Laois, crossed into his path on the Monasterevin to Portlaoise Road on August 17, 2018.
Mr Fitzgerald had been on his way home after visiting his daughter to drop off invitations for her wedding 11 weeks later.
Witnesses said the wide road was straight and the weather was good, and there was no apparent reason why Mr Dunne's van had crossed to the other side of the road.
There was no alcohol or drugs in Mr Dunne's system, and speed was not a factor. He was not overtaking anyone at the time.
A sitting of the Circuit Court in Naas yesterday before Judge Patrick Quinn heard evidence that analysis of Mr Dunne's phone had shown he had two conversations on it in the minutes before the crash, but there was no evidence he was on the phone at the time of the incident.
Mr Fitzgerald's widow, June, gave an emotional victim impact statement outlining how her husband's sudden death had affected her and her family.
She told how she waited anxiously at home in Walsh Island, Co Offaly, when Christopher was late home, only to see gardaí arriving with the bad news.
"Myself and Christopher had been 32 years married the day I buried him. We were 36 years together. We have two beautiful children, June who is 32 years old now and Gary who is 29 years old now," she said.
"We did everything together. Both children were born with a visual impairment and as a result me and Christopher became a strong team.
"The four of us were best friends. We were always very close. Gary and his father were more like best friends than father and son. After his death I was left heartbroken.
"I have lost my best friend and soulmate. I have struggled since we lost him, as have the kids. June lost the opportunity to have her father walk her down the aisle 11 weeks after he was taken from us.
"That was a particularly hard day. My memories of her wedding are vague because I barely remember it.
"I have one memory of standing on the balcony outside the reception looking out at the stars and saying 'where are you?'," she told the court.
"Life has changed dramatically since losing Christopher."
The court heard evidence from Mr Dunne's barrister, Garnet Orange, that his client had expressed genuine sorrow and remorse for what had happened, and could not explain why his vehicle had crossed to the other side of the road.
He said Mr Dunne had sought medical advice to see if it was possible he had suffered a heart attack or a stroke before the accident but was simply not able to find an explanation.
Mr Dunne has previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Fitzgerald. Judge Quinn adjourned the case for mention again on March 24.