Saturday 20 January 2018

Verdict of unlawful killing at inquest of eight crash victims

Shaun Kelly: pleaded guilty. Photo: North West Newspix
Shaun Kelly: pleaded guilty. Photo: North West Newspix

Greg Harkin

A jury has returned a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of eight men who died in Ireland's worst-ever road incident.

After three days of often fractious proceedings in which the man responsible had denied causing the crash, despite pleading guilty, the jury reached its verdict late last night.

The men died in the crash on the night of the World Cup final on July 11, 2010, on the main R238 Buncrana to Clonmany road at Dumfries.

Shaun Kelly (27), from Hill Road in Buncrana, is serving an eight-year sentence after pleading guilty to causing the deaths by dangerous driving of seven friends and a pensioner.

His original four-year sentence handed down by at Letterkenny Circuit Court was doubled by the Court of Appeal.

The jury said each of the men died from injuries caused by a road traffic collision and were "unlawfully killed consistent with dangerous driving".

Coroner Dr John Madden told the families that if they had been looking for all the answers on the death of their loved ones, the Coroner's Court was never going to be the place for that to happen.

"This was the most difficult and stressful inquest I have ever been involved in. It is the worst thing any parent can do to bury their own child," said Dr Madden.

"All of these people were taken too soon. I know this has been an issue but you know that if you want all the answers then the inquest wasn't going to do that."

Dr Madden said 10 people could have died on the night.

"It shocked Ireland and it shocked the world," he said.

"This will not solve anything for the families but I hope there is one less hurdle in the rest of your lives."

Garda Inspector David Murphy said he knew some of the victims and passed his sympathies to the families and his thanks to all the emergency services. He said gardaí acted with compassion throughout the investigation.

"It is the worst crash in the history of the State and I sincerely hope it is the worst crash forever," he said. The inquest was beset by arguments over the admission of a separate engineer's report commissioned by Kelly for his criminal case.

Shocked

A garda expert told the court this evening at the Inishowen Gateway Hotel that a woman whose car was struck by Kelly's VW Passat was 90cm on her own side of the road on impact.

Garda Kevin Giles had also met the families for more than an hour to go through his report before giving evidence.

He told the court he believed Kelly's car hit Mrs McGilloway's Renault Megane before veering at a 90-degree angle and skidding 44 metres down the wrong side of the road and into a car being driven by 66-year-old Hugh Friel.

Kelly's friends who died in his car were Eamon McDaid (22), of Ballymagan, Buncrana; Mark McLaughlin (21), of Ballinahone, Fahan; Paul Doherty (19), of Ardagh, Ballyliffin; Ciarán Sweeney (19), of Ballyliffin; PJ McLaughlin (21), of Rockstown, Burnfoot; James McEleney (23), of Meenaduff, Clonmany and Damien McLaughlin (21), of Umricam, Buncrana.

During the hearing yesterday Peter Nolan, barrister for Kelly, clashed with solicitor Frank Doran, acting for Mrs Anne McGilloway, whose car was initially hit by Kelly's car.

Meanwhile, an engineer's report prepared for Kelly's defence was ruled inadmissable by the coroner Dr John Madden.

After the inquest, Susan Gray, from the road safety group Parc, called for the next Government to introduce a new and updated Coroners Act to replace the 1962 legislation.

She said the parameters of inquests needed to be widened in the interests of relatives in such cases.

Irish Independent

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