Trucker avoids jail after M8 crash that killed new mother
A truck driver has avoided a prison sentence for veering off the M8 Dublin-Cork motorway and killing a young mother in a car on her way to see her sick newborn baby in hospital.
Tipperary Circuit Criminal Court heard Nicola Kenny (26) died instantly from multiple injuries in the incident between the truck and the car in which she was a back seat passenger.
The crash happened just seconds after she heard from Temple Street Children's Hospital that her 24-hour-old baby Lily Rose was fine and she didn't need to make the trip to Dublin to see her.
Truck driver Ciaran McBride (33) pleaded guilty before Tipperary Circuit Criminal Court to careless driving causing death between Junctions 10 and nine on the M8 Dublin-Cork motorway on September 5, 2016.
Judge Tom Teehan, in imposing a suspended 18-month prison sentence, said the evidence indicated it was most likely the truck driver momentarily fell asleep at the wheel rather than being distracted by a fit of sneezing as claimed.
"(It was) much more consistent with falling asleep at the wheel," he said.
"The greater the size of the vehicle, the greater the onus on the person driving it.
"He is somebody who is going to have to live for the rest of his days with the knowledge that he has caused the death of another human being and caused life-changing effects to an entire family."
The court was told the 2001 Volvo truck, driven by McBride of Carna, Keady, Co Armagh, ploughed into the rear of the Ford Focus stopped on the hard shoulder.
It contained Ms Kenny, her mother Ann who was in the front passenger seat, and her aunt Irene Whelan Slattery.
Ms Kenny had given birth to Lily Rose in Clonmel Hospital on September 4.
However, the little girl became ill and was rushed to Temple Street in Dublin.
Ms Kenny had just been collected by her Thurles-based mother and aunt and was on her way to see the infant in Dublin.
Ms Whelan Slattery suffered a traumatic brain injury in the collision and had to be airlifted to University Hospital Limerick.
Sergeant Declan Corrigan told the court the Ford Focus had pulled onto the hard shoulder around 12.25pm that day to allow Ms Kenny take an urgent hospital call.
"The call was to tell Nicola the baby was fine and there was no need to travel to Dublin," he said.
Seconds after the call finished, the Ford was struck from the rear by the truck driven by the defendant.
The court was told McBride insisted at the scene and to gardaí that the accident was caused when he suddenly suffered a bout of sneezing.
"He sneezed - it was on account of that it would appear his vehicle slightly veered onto the hard shoulder," defence counsel Philip Sheahan SC said.
Ms Whelan Slattery now suffers from severe memory problems.
In hard-hitting victim impact statements, Ms Kenny's parents Ann and Padd said their lives had been left devastated by the tragedy.
"The death of Nicola as a young mother was devastating both for myself and my entire family," her mother said.
"Life will never be the same again."
Nicola's father, Paddy, said they are now raising Lily Rose instead of her mother - their daughter.
"It has left a huge hole in our lives - Nicola's death is a big loss to our family and Lily Rose will have to grow up without her mother," said Paddy.
Family members did not attend the sentencing hearing.
Speaking after the sentence, Ms Kenny's mother Ann told the Irish Independent that nothing will bring her daughter back.
"I'm just happy that the truth came out. That's all I ever wanted - the truth," she said.
"But at the end of the day it doesn't change anything. Nicola isn't here any more," she added.
Ann said that Lily Rose was growing up and wa‑s well looked after by members of the family.
"She's flying through the place. She's doing great," she said.