Sunday 18 March 2018

Ireland's worst ever road tragedy: Families of car crash victims want defence report revealed

The car in which seven men died is removed from the scene near Clonmany in Donegal. Photo: Margaret McLoughlin
The car in which seven men died is removed from the scene near Clonmany in Donegal. Photo: Margaret McLoughlin
Shaun Kelly. Photo: PA

Greg Harkin

Relatives of some of the eight men who died in Ireland's worst ever road tragedy have told an inquest they want an engineer's report which was prepared for the driver responsible to be examined at the hearing.

The men died in a two-car crash in Drumfries, Inishowen, Co Donegal, on July 11, 2010.

Coroner Dr John Madden will issue his ruling in Buncrana today after some family members and a solicitor representing driver Shaun Kelly asked for expert reports to be admitted in the case yesterday.

Kelly (27), from Hill Road, Ballymagan, Buncrana, is serving an eight-year sentence for causing the deaths by dangerous driving after the original sentence was doubled by the Court of Appeal last December.

The coroner also issued a summons for Anne McGilloway, whose car was also at the scene of the crash, after she was unable to appear yesterday.

Dr Madden told the families that he wanted to assure them that he wished to give them all the answers he could in relation to how their loved ones died.

Shaun Kelly. Photo: PA
Shaun Kelly. Photo: PA

Those killed in the crash were pensioner Hugh Friel (66), from Urris, Clonmany, and Kelly's friends Eamon McDaid (22), of Ballymagan, Buncrana; Mark McLaughlin (21), of Ballinahone, Fahan; Paul Doherty (19), of Ardagh, Ballyliffin; Ciaran Sweeney (19), of Ballyliffin; PJ McLaughlin (21), of Rockstown, Burnfoot; James McEleney (23), of Meenaduff, Clonmany; and Damien McLaughlin (21), of Umricam, Buncrana.

Kelly's solicitor, Ciaran MacLochlainn, said he wanted to include a report commissioned from an engineer for Kelly's defence in the Circuit Court.Barrister Stephen Byrne, representing the Garda Commissioner, objected to the request, saying the defence report had not been used by Kelly in his Circuit Court case.

He said that if the coroner acceded to the request, the prosecution's own expert engineer's report should also be considered.

Mr Byrne said Kelly's defence team in criminal proceedings had not used the report as he had pleaded guilty to causing the deaths.

Philomena McEleney, whose son James died in the crash, told Dr Madden that the 23-year-old was her "flesh and blood and we have the right to know exactly what happened to him".

Eamonn Sweeney, father of Ciaran, added: "This is our only chance to find out what happened to our sons."

Earlier, Dr Madden had refused a request from Mr MacLochainn to have Kelly at the hearing, saying the driver had told gardaí he had no recollection of the incident.

Pathologist Gerry O'Dowd, in his evidence, said Letterkenny hospital had never had a day like the day of the crash "and I hope we never have a day like it again". Other witnesses gave evidence of seeing Kelly's northern-registered Volkswagen Passat driving at "massive" speed just before the collision.

Irish Independent

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