Thursday 19 April 2018

Schoolgirl (12) sues drunk mum over death crash

Mary Carberry
Mary Carberry

Tim Healy

A SCHOOLGIRL is suing her mother and father over a car crash which left her seriously injured and killed her sister and friend.

Faith Varden Carberry has launched an action for damages in the High Court against her mother Mary Carberry (36), who was the uninsured driver of the car, and got so drunk on the day of the crash she "blacked out". She is also taking action against her father Thomas Varden, who owned the vehicle but who insists he did not want Ms Carberry to drive it.

Faith was eight years old when her mother -- who was banned from driving at the time because of a previous accident -- ploughed into a mud embankment on a disused road outside Edgeworthstown, Co Longford.

Faith's sister Ava (6) and her friend Michaela Logan were killed and another child was also injured in the 2007 crash.

In October 2009, Mary Carberry was sentenced at Longford Circuit Court to six years' imprisonment with two years suspended for dangerous driving causing death. The court heard harrowing details about Ms Carberry drinking for hours, getting so drunk that she "blacked out" and then got behind the wheel and drove from Kildare to Longford.

Faith, now aged 12, of Clonguish Court, Newtownforbes, Co Longford, brought the court action through her grandfather, Anthony Carberry, of St Mels Road, Longford.

She is suing her father Thomas Varden, aged in his early 70s, of Renville Village, Oranmore, Co Galway; her mother, of Newtownforbes, Co Longford; and the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland.

Faith was in a spinal cast for 10 weeks and suffered severe psychological trauma after her sister was killed.

She attended a child psychologist for three months after the crash.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, who is to decide the issue of liability, was told that Mr Varden does not deny he was the owner of the car but claims it was being driven by Ms Carberry without his authority.

Judgment against Ms Carberry has already been obtained in the case.

In his evidence, Mr Varden, a Galway businessman, said he had never lived with Ms Carberry but he kept in contact with the children and provided accommodation for the children.

When Ms Carberry was banned from driving, the children had to walk one-and-a-half miles to school.

Ms Carberry, he said, put the children on the phone to him saying they were cold and wet. "It pulled at my heart strings," he said.

He added that Ms Carberry had been to Alcoholics Anonymous and seemed to be turning over a new leaf. He bought a car for €14,000 but, as she was banned from driving, somebody else would have to drive it.

An insurance policy was taken out by Ms Carberry but it did not cover her to drive.

On the night of the crash, he got a phone call from Ms Carberry saying Ava was dead and she thought Faith was dead too.

"She said, 'if I had a gun I would shoot myself'. I said, if I had a gun I would do it for you myself," he said.

"I thought Faith was dying, but she recognised my voice and I was delighted.

"I did not see Mary Carberry again until Ava's funeral. I was angry. I am still angry.

"No way would I have given the car to her if I thought she was going to use it that way. I trusted her."

Mr Varden also told the court that between 2003 and 2007 he, along with Ms Carberry's parents, had contacted social services about the children.

He said he had a meeting with social workers a few months before the accident to voice his fears but nothing was done. The case continues.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News