Friday 15 December 2017

Widow shares last text message her beloved husband sent before he was hit by speeding driver

Popular councillor Willie Crowley (56) died three days after accident

Willie Crowley, who was killed by dangerous driver Damien Kalinski, pictured with his wife, Claire Doyle
Willie Crowley, who was killed by dangerous driver Damien Kalinski, pictured with his wife, Claire Doyle
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

A widow has described the last text message her much-loved husband sent her, just minutes before he was struck by a speeding motorist.

Popular Kildare councillor Willie Crowley (56) died from his head injuries three days after he was struck by the car on the evening of December 15, 2015. He had been walking home from his local pub in Newbridge, Co Kildare at the time.

"Willie was walking home at approximately 8.30pm in the evening, he had been out at meetings during the day and had a pint after work," his wife Claire Doyle said.

"He was walking home when he was hit. He suffered severe head injuries and died three days later."

Mr Crowley had a shopping list of items he needed to get for a Christmas dinner he was preparing to cook for those in need on Christmas day and had left the pub early in order to make preparations, she explained.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme, Claire was enjoying a Christmas get-together with two friends in a local restaurant when the tragedy occurred.

She said she hadn't seen her husband walk past on his way home, but he had sent her a text message when he spotted the small group in the window seat.

"I was meeting two friends of mine, we went for a bite to eat. Willie had passed by, I hadn't seen him," Claire said.

"He sent me a text saying, 'I see three lovely ladies in the window of the restaurant'."

The accident happened just 100 yards from the couple's home.

"It's the street that runs parallel to the main street, it's just 100 yards to the hall door," Claire said.

"It's a commercial and residential street, it is narrow enough, it is not built for speed."

Claire said a neighbour rang her brother, who in turn notified Claire.

"He said 'there's been an accident and I think it's Willie'.

"My brother rang me. The guards had been to our house but I had been out.

"The guards came and drove me to the hospital.

"It was the same room my mother had been in in 2014, she had had a brain bleed and I had been told there was no chance, but she miraculously survived after four months.

"So I thought it can't be all that bad. It's a good omen [that Willie was in the room].

"I really thought he'd pull through.

"He had come through cancer and chemotherapy in 2008 and 2009."

Willie died on December 18, 2015. The funeral was held two days before Christmas.

Claire described the experience as "very surreal" and said it felt like an "out-of-body experience".

"It felt like I was organising it for someone else," she said.

"I was numb, but I guess that's nature's way of protecting you.

"Newbridge came to a standstill, there was an incredible outpouring of grief and tributes.

"Willie was much loved by all the community."

The hit-and-run driver was jailed for four years and disqualified from driving for 10 years. 

Damien Klasinski (29) of The Oaks, Newbridge, Co Kildare drove off after hitting Mr Crowley. The court heard he told the three others passengers in the car: “What am I supposed to do?”.

The passengers came forward to gardaí and Klasinski was arrested the next day when gardaí found him hiding in a wardrobe at a friend's home.

He told gardaí in interview that he had panicked, saying: “I am very sorry. It was an accident. I'm really hoping this man recovers”.

He later pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Crowley on Eyre Street, Newbridge.

Claire said she thinks there should be a "tougher approach" to people with driving offences.

"At the time he wasn't disqualified, the case involving that incident hadn't come up yet.

"He did receive a two year disqualification for the driving offence, but sadly for Willie and for us, that didn't come up until after he had knocked down Willie.

"I think there should be a tougher approach.

"[Klasinski] certainly did not drive to the conditions that prevailed, it was raining, there was a narrow road and cars parked on either side.

"He was speeding.

"It is thought he was going 80km/h, on a small road of residential and commercial buildings, you don't drive at that speed.

"He also left the scene after and didn't offer assistance."

Claire paid tribute to her late husband by saying he lived up to his name Crowley, which in Irish translates to "cruadh," which means "hard," and "laoch" which means "hero".

"It means hardy hero, and that's what he was," she said.

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