Saturday 23 November 2019

Haulage firm fined €1m for crash that left hurling star's wife dead

Vanessa McGarry
Vanessa McGarry
James McGarry and his son Darragh at Croke Park after the death of Vanessa McGarry, inset

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

A HAULAGE company with a "flagrant disregard" for safety has been fined €1m almost six years after the horrific deaths of a Kilkenny hurler's wife and a second young mother.

Mother-of-one Vanessa McGarry (31) – the wife of former goalkeeper James McGarry – and Mary Lonergan (48), a mother of two, were killed after a lorry shed its load and crashed at Kilfane, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, on July 19, 2007.

Vanessa's husband was supported by family members as he attended Wexford Circuit Criminal Court yesterday where the penalty was handed down to Nolan Transport.

Mr McGarry described in a victim impact statement how the haulage firm had shown "absolutely no respect" to the families of the dead women.

"Not once have they had the decency to apologise," he said, adding that the company had "never sympathised" with him on Vanessa's death. "It took them over five years to plead guilty," he said.

Vanessa's son Darragh and three others, Louise Lonergan, James Furlong and Gerard Corcoran, were also injured in the accident.

Vanessa was a well-known face on the hurling scene. She was always there to cheer on her husband. When Kilkenny won the All-Ireland Hurling Final after the young woman's death, the Cats' then captain Henry Shefflin shared the moment with her son, Darragh, who helped him to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Yesterday, Judge Raymond Fullam said the accident was "clearly foreseeable". He said Nolan Transport had shown a "flagrant disregard" for safety and criticised the "dangerous manner in which the load was being transported" on its lorry.

The court heard how the truck and trailer carrying six steel coils weighing over 25 tonnes had not been properly secured. The trailer shed its load on a bend and it was seen "moving like a snake" before it struck two cars.

The lorry collided with the car driven by Vanessa while Ms Lonergan's car was struck by the shed load.

The Nolan Transport vehicle had been travelling at a speed of 52kmh when it came to a bad bend before the collision.

The driver of the lorry, Rafal Luszacki, of Rosbercon Court, New Ross, Co Wexford, was fined and given a three-year driving ban arising from the incident.

Patricia Nolan, a director of Nolan Transport, had not undertaken a course in transport safety at the time of the crash. She has subsequently done so.

Judge Fullam said the firm has since introduced driver training and improved its safety practices. However, he said implementation "still seems to be a problem" at the company as two Health and Safety Authority (HSA) inspections found loads to have been "inadequately secured" since the accident.

He imposed a fine of €1m on Nolan Transport which is to be paid in three instalments between now and the end of 2015.

The company was also ordered to pay the HSA's costs of around €70,000. The court heard that the civil claims for compensation arising from the accident have all been settled apart from one, from the Lonergan family.

Nolan Transport issued a statement offering its "deepest sympathies and apologies to the families of Vanessa McGarry and Mary Lonergan" after yesterday's hearing.

The chief executive of the Health and Safety Authority, Martin O'Halloran, said: "A failure to ensure loads are restrained and secured can lead them to become unstable while being transported. In this case, those failures lead to tragedy."

Irish Independent

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