Saturday 21 April 2018

Student spared jail over crash in which mum, daughter died

Susan Gleeson at court Photo: Cork Courts Limited
Susan Gleeson at court Photo: Cork Courts Limited
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A student wept as she avoided jail and received a suspended three-year sentence for dangerous driving which caused the death of a mother and daughter last Christmas.

Susan Gleeson (21) was also banned from driving for 15 years as Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Geraldine (58) and Louise (22) Clancy both drowned after their car, having been struck by Ms Gleeson's vehicle, overturned into a flooded ditch.

Both were trapped in their vehicle as it wedged upside down in the ditch which was flooded with 0.8 metres of water from the River Blackwater on December 22 2015.

Ms Gleeson had failed to yield at a blind junction on the R666 in north Cork and, in attempting to take the turn, lost control of her vehicle and struck Geraldine Clancy's car as it was passing.

Gardaí at the scene where Geraldine and Louise Clancy died
Gardaí at the scene where Geraldine and Louise Clancy died

Mrs Clancy was faultless in her driving and was powerless to avoid the collision.

In a freak series of coincidences, Mrs Clancy's car went through a portion of the ditch where a wall had previously collapsed - and then entered the most heavily flooded section of a dyke.

Tragically, the doors of her car were wedged tightly closed after it landed upside down in the dyke, whose width exactly matched that of her vehicle.

A passing motorist, off-duty Defence Forces soldier Sean O'Grady, attempted to prise open the doors to save the two women, who could be heard screaming inside the car.

He opened the passenger's door sufficient to get his arm inside - and felt his hand being squeezed by Louise Clancy.

"He held her arm," Sgt John McNamara said. "She (Louise) squeezed his hand for a short time and then became lifeless."

Louise Clancy
Louise Clancy

Sgt McNamara said Ms Gleeson immediately told gardaí at the scene she misjudged the junction and had failed to yield.

Ms Gleeson wept as she told the court she never intended to hurt anyone when she took the blind junction in third gear.

The University of Limerick student was on her way to a dental appointment and was driving unaccompanied on a provisional licence.

She had completed nine of her 12 driving lessons.

Geraldine Clancy
Geraldine Clancy

The student admitted to gardaí that her full concentration was not on the road.

However, excessive speed, alcohol and mobile phone usage were not factors in the tragedy.

"I want to apologise to Noel, Fiona and Declan Clancy for the loss of Geraldine and Louise," she said. "I never wanted for any of this to happen. There isn't a day that I don't think about it and the heartache I have caused them.

"There are no words to say how sorry I am."

Moving victim impact statements were delivered by Noel Clancy, who lost his wife and daughter in the tragedy, as well as by his son, Declan, and daughter, Fiona.

"I was married to Geraldine for 10,705 days and I would have traded a lot of those days for just one minute to say goodbye," Noel Clancy said.

Declan Clancy said he was still "tortured" by what happened.

"The thought of my mother and sister screaming for their lives, knowing they were going to drown, tortures me every night," he said. "I hear their screams - I see them die again and again.

"I've always been a mammy's boy. But when myself and (my girlfriend) Ciara got engaged it broke my heart that the only way I could tell my mother and sister was to go to their grave."

Read More: Devastated dad demands crackdown on L-drivers

Fiona Clancy said her life became "a living nightmare".

"We have experienced hell on earth and I will always be traumatised. I await Christmas with fear and dread," she said.

The accident happened less than 1km from the Clancys' family farm.

Ms Gleeson is a neighbour of the Clancy family.

Judge Seán O Donnabháin said it was "an horrific" case with shocking consequences for the Clancy family.

Irish Independent

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