Saturday 19 January 2019

'Inexperienced driver' unable to stop car veering into van, trial told

Dayna Kearney arrives at Naas Circuit Criminal Court for her
trial. Photo: Collins
Dayna Kearney arrives at Naas Circuit Criminal Court for her trial. Photo: Collins
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A motorist accused of causing the deaths of her four friends in a tragic crash was an "inexperienced driver" unable to control her car when it started to veer to the other side of the road, a jury has been told.

A prosecuting barrister in the trial of Dayna Kearney (23) said every driver had a duty to keep their car on the correct side of the road and to have properly inflated tyres.

Counsel for Ms Kearney argued that a slow puncture that became a flat tyre shortly before the crash was not a pre-existing condition of which Ms Kearney could have been aware.

The two barristers were making their closing speeches in the trial at Kildare Circuit Court.

Judge Eoin Garavan is due to charge the jury before deliberations begin today.

Ms Kearney denies dangerous driving causing the deaths of her friends in the accident.

Garda Tony O’Halloran. Photo: Collins
Garda Tony O’Halloran. Photo: Collins

Gemma Nolan (19), Chermaine Carroll (20) and Niamh Doyle (19), from Carlow, and Aisling Middleton (19), from Athy, Co Kildare, were all killed "almost instantly" in the crash on the N78 at Burtown, near Athy, on January 6, 2015.

The five were returning from ice-skating in Co Kilkenny when the VW Polo veered across the road and collided passenger-side-on into an oncoming VW Transporter van.

Ms Kearney, a student from Crossneen, Co Carlow, has also pleaded not guilty to knowingly driving a dangerously defective vehicle. She was also badly injured in the accident.

It is the prosecution's case that although her car was in sound mechanical condition, some tyres were not fully inflated and this, along with the heavy load in the car, caused it to swerve out of control.

Engineer John Hayes. Photo: Collins
Engineer John Hayes. Photo: Collins

Garda PSV inspector Tony O'Halloran said that after the crash the front left tyre was under-inflated, and the rear right tyre had no pressure, while the other two had burst in the accident. He found a slow leak in the flat tyre, which was in poor overall condition. Between it and the soft front left tyre, his opinion was the car lost stability and directional control and "yawed", or slid, across the road.

He believed the rear right tyre had probably gone flat during the final journey and the car was driven a very short distance on it.

The indications were that everyone in the car was wearing seatbelts.

Engineer John Hayes, for the defence, said he noticed the cat's eyes were particularly high prior to the scuff mark on the road.

The risk of damage to a deflated tyre from these cat's eyes was significantly greater, he said.

"I felt there had to be some injury to the tyre that had occurred within a short period prior to the event," he said.

Mr Hayes said it could not be ruled out that the deflation of the front left tyre, which had low pressure, could have been caused by the collision.

Once Ms Kearney lost directional control, she would have had "no ability" to correct it, he said.

"Even someone who had done an advanced driving course would have been unlikely to correct it," he said.

"Here we have an inexperienced driver on a provisional licence driving a car on a full load ... and when the car started to veer, she wasn't able to control it," prosecutor Daniel Boland BL told the jury.

"What we say happened here is a road traffic accident," said Roderick O'Hanlon SC, defending.

"It was not a case of Dayna Kearney driving dangerously."

Irish Independent

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