Thursday 19 July 2018

Tyres of car driven by student accused of dangerous driving 'not inflated correctly', trial told

Dayna Kearney has denied two charges relating to the deaths of her friends Chermaine Carroll, Aisling Middleton, Gemma Nolan and Niamh Doyle
Dayna Kearney has denied two charges relating to the deaths of her friends Chermaine Carroll, Aisling Middleton, Gemma Nolan and Niamh Doyle

Andrew Phelan

Four young women returning from a day out ice skating were killed "almost instantly" when the car their friend was driving swerved out of control and collided with a van.

A trial heard a bus approaching the scene of the tragedy was hailed down by two hysterical men, shouting: "Help the girls, help the girls."

Chermaine Carroll
Chermaine Carroll

But of the five friends in the car, only the driver, Dayna Kearney (23), was showing signs of life and gardaí found her screaming and "in serious pain".

Ms Kearney is on trial at Kildare Circuit Court charged with dangerous driving causing the death of her friends in the accident.

Aisling Middleton (19), from Athy, Gemma Nolan (19), Chermaine Carroll (20) and Niamh Doyle (19), from Co Carlow, all lost their lives in the collision on the N78 Athy Link Road at Burtown, near Athy, on January 6, 2015.

Ms Kearney, a student from Crossneen, Co Carlow, has pleaded not guilty to the charge, and also denies driving a dangerously defective vehicle. She herself was badly injured in the incident.

Aisling Middleton
Aisling Middleton

Prosecutor Daniel Boland BL told the jury the collision happened at 9.45pm on an almost new road, with no excess speed. The accused was driving her VW Polo and coming in the opposite direction was a white VW Transporter van with two occupants, both Polish men.

Ms Kearney's car veered over to the wrong side of the road and collided, "passenger side on", into the van.

It was the prosecution's case that although her car was in sound mechanical condition and the tyres all had good tread, "some were not at the correct inflated level" and this, with the heavy load caused the car to swerve, leading to the incident.

Tracey Norton said she was driving behind the van, at about 80 to 85kmh, when she saw the car swerve and straighten back up. It then "shot across the road" in front of the van.

Gemma Nolan
Gemma Nolan

She went to the car and the driver was screaming.

Ms Norton saw a girl in the passenger seat and tried to see if she had a pulse but didn't get anything, she said.

Niamh Doyle
Niamh Doyle

Bus Éireann driver Mark Fitzgerald said he was stopped by two men with broken English, "literally hysterical" and saying "help the girls, help the girls", he said.

Mr Fitzgerald took two trainee doctors off the bus and asked if they could move the driver because she was "the only one in the car that I believed was alive". They could not move her.

Garda Deirdre Collins said the van was on fire and its driver and passenger were on the grass verge in need of medical treatment.

Garda Sergeant Donal O'Sullivan said Ms Kearney's injuries were so severe she was not able to give a statement until four months later.

The crashed car
The crashed car

She told gardaí she and her friends went ice skating, and then to McDonald's but she had no recollection of the collision.

She said she had bought the Polo on Done Deal in 2014, believing it had valid NCT until April 2015 and was road worthy.

She later found out the NCT cert had run out months earlier. This was a "shock and devastating" to her and her family, she said. She had only a provisional licence, was not accompanied by a fully licensed driver on the day of the accident and did not have L plates displayed.

Garda Rachel Murdiff agreed that the car had "yawed", a motion where the wheels rotate or spin.

Counsel for Ms Kearney said the defence had engaged an engineer who discovered the "cat's eyes" in the middle of the road were 10mm above the maximum recommended level.

Mariusz Wawrzos, the passenger in the van, estimated they were travelling at about 70kmh. He saw the car sliding from left to right two to three times before it collided with the van.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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