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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Driver who killed 'beautiful woman with heart of gold' gets five years

Damien McGeehan, on crutches at Letterkenny District
Damien McGeehan, on crutches at Letterkenny District Court
The late Marie O'Donnell.

Stephen Maguire

A YOUNG driver who jumped into his car after drinking, killing a respected schoolteacher in a head-on collision, was jailed for five years yesterday.

Damien McGeehan pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, causing the death of Marie O'Donnell on August 11, 2011, in Milford, Co Donegal.

Mrs O'Donnell, a mother of two, was returning home from a 25th anniversary party, when McGeehan crossed to the wrong side of the road and smashed head-on into her car.

She was killed instantly and her husband, John, who was sleeping in the car, suffered multiple injuries.

McGeehan (20) appeared in Letterkenny District Court on crutches yesterday after pleading guilty to having no insurance, no driving licence, driving unaccompanied, driving dangerously and driving with two bald tyres.


The court heard how McGeehan and girlfriend, Simone Duggan, had been at a function and returned to Ms Duggan's flat where they had an argument.

He went looking for the car keys, which she had hidden because he had been drinking.

He eventually found them and got into his car despite Ms Duggan pleading with him not to drive.

McGeehan, originally from Loughanure but with an address at New Cottage, Annagry, was not insured as he had failed to keep up payments on the €4,000 premium for his Honda Civic car.

McGeehan was only a little over 600 yards into his journey when he smashed into Mrs O'Donnell, from Knockbrack, Portsalon, in her Nissan Micra car. The well-known teacher, from Drumfad National School in Kerrykeel, died and her husband was hospitalised.

Mr O'Donnell suffered head injuries, a fractured sternum, a liver bleed and had part of his intestine removed.

McGeehan broke both ankles, his elbow and suffered a punctured lung and was in a coma after the crash on the road between Milford and Kilmcrennan.

In his victim impact statement, Mr O'Donnell said his wife was the centre of his family's world. He said he could not describe his loneliness and the impact her death had had on the couple's two sons, George and Jonathon.

"Marie was a beautiful person with a heart of gold. And her loss is not isolated to me.

"Our sons, George and Jonathon. Can you imagine the pain of their loss -- never being able to speak to their mum again?" he said.

George said the last thing he remembers about his mum on the night she was killed, was her doing a twirl and asking him if she looked well. The tragic teacher's other son heard of his mother's death from an aunt, who contacted him by telephone as he was camping in California.

In his statement, Jonathon said: "She was beautiful. A firecracker on the fourth -- drop-dead beautiful. Her memory is the drive I need. She will always be the force that will always push me to my potential."

McGeehan told the court that he has wanted to apologise to the O'Donnell family several times, but could not.

"I am so sorry to the O'Donnell family for my actions, completely and utterly. I can't put them into words," he said in court.

Judge John O'Hagan said the event was preventable.

"It is shocking and not unusual in Donegal. The clock can't be turned back."

He sentenced McGeehan to five years in prison and banned him from driving for 20 years.

Irish Independent

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