Thursday 17 October 2019

'The morning was normal.. I gave him a kiss goodbye' - parents of boy (6) killed in hit and run describe tragic last moments

Heartbroken parents Josephine and Stephen O'Donovan calling for a change in the law to prevent further tragedies

Jo and Stephen O'Donovan, parents of Luke O'Donovan (inset)
Jo and Stephen O'Donovan, parents of Luke O'Donovan (inset)
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

The heartbroken parents of a little boy who was killed when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver who had suffered two traumatic brain injuries have called for a change in the law to prevent further tragedies.

Josephine and Stephen O'Donovan have told how they "prayed for a miracle" after their beloved only child Luke (6) was hit by a driver outside of their home in Ballymacoda, Cork on April 16 2014.

Luke's mother Josephine has spoken candidly about the last time she saw her son.

Speaking on The Sean O'Rourke Show on RTE Radio One, she said: "That morning was just a regular morning, Luke was on his Easter holidays for school, I left for work and I gave him a kiss goodbye.

"I was finishing up work and that day and I told him to think of something we could do the next day, we were going to have some bonding time.

"At about one o'clock I went to lunch and when I got back I was told my phone had been ringing non stop, it was a call from Steve saying there had been an accident.

"Luke wanted to play on his X-Box and Steve went just outside of the house to do a job on the car, he was working for a while when he heard a loud bang."

Her husband Steve said of the collision: "Initially I didn't know what the noise was but eventually I realised that it was Luke as I ran up the road I realised he had been struck by a car and I was roaring at the driver to stop but he didn't.

Luke O'Donovan
Luke O'Donovan

"I got as far as Luke and took care of him as best as I could.

"It was pretty obvious that only a miracle would save him, Jo and I prayed for a miracle but unfortunately that didn't happen."

She also opened up about the blissful years that they enjoyed with Luke.

She said: "I was 42 when I had Luke, we had given up on ever having children before he came into the world.

"I had a difficult pregnancy and there were three occasions when we thought we nearly lost him and then eventually he was delivered by emergency section.

"The cord was wrapped around his neck so he had a dramatic entrance, it's only fitting I guess that he had such a dramatic exit.

"He just changed our lives, he was everything to us.

"He was a loving child, he had no inhibitions about singing, he talked for Ireland, he was a happy chap."

Read More: 'The system failed' - Parents of boy (6) killed in hit-and-run question why driver was granted licence

After it became apparent that Luke wouldn't survive, the O'Donovans made the difficult decision to donate his organs, which helped four other people.

Josephine said that some good came from Luke's tragic death provides her with some comfort.

Jo and Stephen O'Donovan, parents of Luke O'Donovan who was killed in a traffic accident.
Pic from Provision
Jo and Stephen O'Donovan, parents of Luke O'Donovan who was killed in a traffic accident. Pic from Provision

She said: "Luke spent two nights in intensive care, if anyone spent 20 minutes in intensive care you see people fighting for their lives, you see families hoping and praying beyond hope that their loved one will survive.

"We had donor cards and had discussed this between us but we didn't have one for Luke because we thought he would make that decision as he got older.

"We had no doubt he would have because he was a very caring little chap."

She has revealed how their lives were shattered by Luke's death.

Josephine said: "Initially everything changed, your shopping list has changed, there were aisles that you just couldn't go down anymore.

"Every occasion you would have counted down the sleeps to, birthdays, Christmases, Halloween, now you just try and get through them  as best you can.
"Over time you do get stronger and develop coping mechanisms to deal with these situations."

It has since emerged that motorist Edmond Walsh (51) has suffered a traumatic brain injury in the 1980s and again in 2006, which left him with the mentality of a child.

Walsh pleaded before Cork Circuit Criminal Court last May to failing to remain at the scene of an accident and failing to offer assistance to someone who had been hurt in an accident.

He received a suspended sentence and a ten year driving ban, he has also vowed never to drive again.

The O'Donovans are angry that he was allowed to get behind the wheel again and they feel that anyone who suffers a brain injury should have to resit their driving test.

Stephen continued to say: "I think you have to look at the guidelines, that's all they are at the moment.

"Basically, the onus seems to be on the driver, the driver's family of the driver and the health care professional.

"I think - especially when you're dealing with a  brain injury, a cerebral injury, where you can't see inside a person's head - you need a specialist type examination when it comes to putting someone back on the road.

"You need to feel confident that someone driving against you is capable and understands the responsibility that comes with driving a car.

"There's no requirement to resit the driving test.

"We have written letters to Transport Minister Shane Ross, we're still waiting on a reply."

Josephine continued to say that there needs to be clearer guidelines for situations like this.

She said: "There was an unfit to plea hearing and there was a lot of evidence given in that hearing - there were two professionals, one for the defense and one for the DPP.

"It was really upsetting to hear about his injury and how he learned to drive, he had no connection with the accident whatsoever.

"If someone is pleading unfit to plea and if there's concern about his mental capacity then they shouldn't be driving, unfit to plead equals unfit to drive."

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