Tuesday 22 October 2019

Man jailed for collision that claimed three women's lives

Victims (from left): Mairead Mundy, Margaret McGonagle and Rachel Battles
Victims (from left): Mairead Mundy, Margaret McGonagle and Rachel Battles

Terry Conlon

A 32-year-old man has been jailed for six years for dangerous driving that caused the deaths of three women on their way home from a summer holiday.

The court heard how Jason Rowntree, of Plantation House, Kingscourt, Co Louth, collided head on with a Toyota Auris car on July 21, killing all occupants.

Margaret McGonagle (69), from Bruckless, Co Donegal, along with her daughter, Mairead O’Neill Mundy (37), and their neighbour Rachel Battles (39) died as a result of the crash at Aclint Bridge, Ardee, on July 21, 2017.

They were travelling home from Dublin Airport at around 12.30am after a family holiday in Turkey.

In victim impact statements read to the court, relatives of the deceased women told of their grief and loss.

Mairead’s husband Padraig Mundy, who was driving behind, said: “It was like somebody reached into my body and pulled my heart out.”

He described his wife’s bubbly personality and told of the love he never felt before when he met her in 2014.

Gayle McGonagle said the deaths of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law left a “gaping hole” in her life.

Rowntree, who had no recollection of the accident, was seriously injured in the crash.

The court heard that he had been at football training and then consumed between three and five pints of Guinness in a pub prior to the accident.

Rowntree pleaded guilty to the dangerous driving charge before Christmas at Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court.

Yesterday Judge Patrick Quinn sentenced Rowntree to six years with the final two years suspended on conditions that included alcohol awareness and counselling programmes.

The judge said the accused crossed a continuous white line on to the opposite side of the road and collided with the Toyota Auris car. The judge said it was not a case of a momentary lack of attention, while accepting the accused didn’t intend the damage that he caused.

The accused had accepted responsibility for the accident and had a clear record. He accepted his remorse was genuine.

Irish Independent

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