Monday 14 October 2019

'Probably going to die in car': girl (16) sent message just before fatal crash

Judge warns young drivers 'treating roads like own private race tracks'

Katie Murphy
Katie Murphy

Ralph Riegel

A judge jailed a teenage motorist for careless driving causing the death of a 16-year old girl, as he warned that some drivers were treating public roads like race tracks.

Judge Eugene O'Kelly jailed Edward O'Shea (19) for 14 months. He noted that crash victim Katie Murphy had sent a Snapchat video to a friend just seconds before the Waterford crash in which she warned: "Probably going to die in the car."

An unidentified male voice replies: "Yeah, probably." A female voice then commented: "Cheeky - going over the speed limit." An unidentified voice replied: "Cheeky - going twice over the speed limit."

A Waterford Circuit Criminal Court jury was not shown the social media videos during the trial because of the hearsay rule.

"Some drivers, particularly young men, treat the roads as their own private race tracks and do so without any regard for the potentially catastrophic consequences for other road users and indeed for themselves," Judge O'Kelly said.

He noted that the so-called Clancy Amendment about unaccompanied learner drivers did not apply as the collision occurred before it was passed into law.

"Such driving is not only illegal it is dangerous," he added.

The heartbroken Murphy family claimed they lost their only daughter because O'Shea, driving while unaccompanied on a learner permit, lost control of a powerful modified Japanese car while showing off to his friends.

He was acquitted by the jury last February of dangerous driving causing death.

Katie died when the car with a specially lowered suspension and low-profile track tyres, driven by O'Shea, spun out of control and crashed side-on with a wall by a Tramore housing estate, Co Waterford, on October 5, 2016.

The area had a 50kmh speed limit but, because there were no brake marks, it was impossible for gardaí to determine what speed the Toyota was travelling at.

However, locals had noted the sound of a car travelling at speed that day along the winding Cliff Road.

One woman was so alarmed by the engine sound she got out of the armchair in her home to investigate - and seconds later heard the impact.

Two other teenage occupants of the car, Joseph Walsh and Jessica Fynn, suffered horrific head and chest injuries in the accident at the Cliff Road, Newtown, outside Tramore.

The imported Japanese car, with a twin-cam engine, was registered to the O'Shea Garage business.

The defendant was driving under a garage insurance policy that day.

"It was extraordinary and blatantly irresponsible for the O'Shea Garage business to facilitate the driving of such a car," Judge O'Kelly said.

Remorse

O'Shea, who appeared in court wearing black slacks and a navy shirt and tie, sat with his head bowed as victim impact statements were delivered by Katie's parents and her brother Scot.

The defendant, in a letter handed in to Judge O'Kelly, apologised for what happened.

"If I could change what happened, believe me I would change everything," he said.

O'Shea now suffers from survivor's guilt, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I hope that one day you [the Murphy family] will be able to forgive me but I want you to know that I am truly sorry.

"So many people have been affected by my bad judgment that day," he said.

O'Shea, of Magnh, Fenor, Waterford, was jailed for 14 months and disqualified from driving for six years.

Irish Independent

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