Saturday 16 December 2017

Girlfriend hid drunk driver's car keys before death smash

Damian McGeehan was jailed for causing the death of Marie O'Donnell in a drink-driving incident
Damian McGeehan was jailed for causing the death of Marie O'Donnell in a drink-driving incident
Marie O’Donnell
Simone Duggan tried to stop her boyfriend from driving

Greg Harkin

THE girlfriend of a man jailed for killing a teacher in an horrific drink-driving incident begged him not to drive just minutes before the smash.

Simone Duggan shook as she told an inquest how she tried to hide car keys from drunken boyfriend Damian McGeehan.

He is serving a five-year sentence for causing the death by dangerous driving of popular teacher Marie O'Donnell.

The 51-year-old mother of two died instantly when McGeehan smashed into her car on the wrong side of the road just outside Milford, Co Donegal, in the early hours of August 11, 2010.

McGeehan, who is now 21, was drunk at the time and was banned from the roads for 20 years when he pleaded guilty at a Circuit Court hearing last year.

Yesterday, his former girlfriend Ms Duggan, now 20 but just 17 at the time of the crash, told the inquest into Mrs O'Donnell's death of the hours leading up to the crash.

She told Letterkenny courthouse that McGeehan, from Loughanure, west Donegal, had been a row in a local pub on the night of the crash.

They had returned to their flat in Milford and he was in a foul mood. "He had a lot to drink and he was being very contrary," said Ms Duggan.

"I hid the car keys from him but he found them and he was determined to go to Annagry.

"I was in my pyjamas and got into the car with him. As we were driving down Milford Main Street, I turned on the lights of his car. "We made the corner and he tried to drop gear. I think he braked but I don't think they worked on time."

She was asked by Coroner John Cannon if McGeehan had been angry with her on the night of the crash. "It (his anger) was directed at everyone including me," she said.

Mrs O'Donnell and her husband John were driving home to Fanad after attending friends' 25th wedding anniversary at a function in Termon when the crash happened.


Mr O'Donnell told the hearing that they had taken his wife's Nissan Micra car to the function as the teacher at Drumfad National School had planned to drive home again afterwards.

He said he had been drinking and his wife had decided not to.

Mr O'Donnell (54), from Knockbrack, Kerrykeel, said he had no memory of the accident.

"Marie was driving and I remember putting on my belt and telling her I was going to have a sleep. I must have fallen fast asleep because the next memory I have is waking up in hospital. I have no memory of the accident," he said.

Mr O'Donnell was seriously injured in the crash.

McGeehan and his girlfriend had to be cut from their vehicle by fire crews and both were also treated for extensive injuries.

Garda forensic expert John McFadden told the inquest that McGeehan's car was travelling at high speed on the wrong side of the road when the crash happened.

A jury of 10 women returned a verdict that Mrs O'Donnell had died as a result of injuries sustained in a road-traffic collision.

The coroner referred to pictures from the scenes, saying: "It is incredible that more people were not killed."

Irish Independent

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