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Sunday 25 February 2018

Irish dad who lost three children in crash brands €1,300 fine as 'outrageous'

Brian and Maria O'Shea, with their son Torben, their only child who survived the accident
Brian and Maria O'Shea, with their son Torben, their only child who survived the accident

AN Irish family who lost three children in a horror crash in Denmark returned to Ireland to celebrate their lives.

In a moving interview with Miriam O’Callaghan on RTE Radio One this morning, Brian O’Shea told of how himself, his wife Maria (39) and their surviving baby son Torben were surrounded by their Irish relatives as they lit a bonfire and played music for their month’s mind.

Brian and Maria O’Shea’s three children, Soren, 11, Saoirse, 9 and Connor 3, lost their lives on a family holiday in July when Danish man Lasse Burholt, who was driving at 125kmh in an 80kmh zone, collided with Maria’s car.

The family were holidaying in Maria’s native Denmark at the time.

Following their deaths, the distraught parents chose to bury them in Denmark “in the care of their grandmother” who passed away before they married.

“It was nice to leave the children in the care of their grandmother in Denmark, with family instead of in an area with strangers,” he said in an emotional interview this morning.

Maria, 39, who is Danish, survived without major injuries, while the couple’s four-and-a-half-month-old baby Torben sustained a broken leg. Her husband, Brian, 45, was not in the car.

The three children were the nephews and niece of celebrity chef Kevin Dundon.

Lasse Burholt received a three-year conditional driving suspension and a €1,340 fine, which Brian has since described as “absolutely outrageous”.

Previously, Dundon said the whole family were shocked by the sentence, remarking that Burholt did not appear to show any remorse.

“I was at home with Maria’s father when we got the call about the crash,” Brian said.

“I came over the hill and I saw smoke where I knew I shouldn’t see smoke. That was five kilometres from the accident, so you can imagine.

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“It was the worst day of my life.”

Following the crash, the police charged Maria with involuntary manslaughter as part of Danish legal procedure. The distraught couple had to wait four weeks for the crash report to be finalised.

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Meanwhile, media reports in Denmark, Australia, where the family are based, and Ireland implied Maria was at fault.

However, the investigation soon established that Maria did nothing wrong – and that it was Burholt’s actions that were to blame.

“In court, an old lady who had been driving in front of Maria said Burholt was going at an enormous speed when he passed her,” Brian said.

“So much so, her car shuddered with the enormous turbulence of the speed. Maria went to take a left turn that day and did not see any oncoming traffic. It was then that the car herself and the kids were in was torpedoed.”

Brian explained that it was impossible for the prosecution to prove Burholt was breaking the speed limit.

“The authorities can only prove what they can by the site of the accident,” he said.

“The software said he was doing 125kmh, we’re sure he was doing a much higher speed.

“I did a bit of investigation myself and I found videos of him on YouTube of him driving in his car.

“He is a social media junkie, always on Facebook and Twitter, it looked like he couldn’t stay off his iPhone.

“We requested the police to look at his social media accounts and his telephone record and it was evident that he had been texting and taking calls during the car journey too.”

Brian said Maria, a GP, was used to driving long journeys and keeping an eye out for dangers on the road in Australia.

The children, likewise, knew how to be safe and quiet when their mother or father were driving.

“Maria was just going about a normal day,” Brian said.

“The kids were going to a fun park the next day and so they had that to look forward to.

“Maria made that left turn and next thing she knew she was upside-down in what was left of her car.

“She is a doctor, a skilled GP in rural Australia who is used to traumatic situations.

“Once she realised what had happened, she went looking for the children to assess them.

“She gave her phone to somebody and asked them to call an ambulance. We found out in the ambulance that Torben was still alive and had been flown by helicopter to hospital.

“It was then we were told the other three kids didn’t make it.”

 

Brian, Maria and Torben returned to Wexford, Ireland for the children’s month’s mind in August.

“We have a huge amount of aunts, uncles and cousins in Ireland. I decided to change the nature of the month’s mind and do something the kids would have loved,” Brian said.

“I asked all the cousins to make boats out of cartons and bring them down to the bay. I brought timber and we had a bonfire on the beach and some musicians.

“I made three small longboats for Soren, Saoirse and Conor and we wrote messages, what we wanted to say to them, and we put them in Chinese lanterns and released them.

“Three birds flew over the bonfire as the sun went down and it was an amazing experience. I can still see the three kids sitting on the cliff and saying ‘Nice one, Dad’”.

Brian said he and his family stay strong by remembering the children and the happy lives they lead.

“When I think of the kids, I remember them for what they were, not what happened on the 16th,” he said.

“We were an amazingly close family and that’s what gives me strength. They were three brilliant kids, not just all together but individually too.

“It’s a bit of a kick to think of the weddings and the grandkids that might have been.

“Myself and Maria don’t see the point going down a road of negativity.

“We’re just going to be as good and as positive as we can be in life so we can enhance any possibility that we might meet Soren, Saoirse and Conor again and give them all of our love and hugs.”

Brian and Maria O’Shea have begun a ‘3 Musketeers Children’s Fund’ to target programs and projects that seek to improve the lives of disadvantaged and orphaned children in underdeveloped countries. See more at http://www.3musketeers.net.au/.

Irish Independent

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