Wednesday 19 June 2019

'A stupid waste of a young life'

Woman tells court how driver's momentary lapse of concentration has robbed her of her partner and left their children without a father

A woman who lost her partner and father of her three children when he was hit by a van driver when emerging from a dangerous junction in North Cork has described his death "as a stupid waste of a young life".

Tina Carey told Cork Circuit Criminal Court in a victim impact statement that her partner, Patrick O'Keeffe (35) from Mitchelstown "has been cheated of the life he had built, the family he loved and all because someone couldn't concentrate while behind the wheel of a vehicle".

Ms Carey was speaking after Daniel Kelly (54) of Hillside, Rostellan, Midleton, was found guilty by a jury of dangerous driving causing the death of Mr O'Keeffe on July 28, 2017 at Bridgelands East, Rathcormac.

Kelly had already admitted the lesser charge of careless driving causing death and he wrote a letter of apology to the family of the deceased, who agreed to meet with him privately after the sentencing hearing, the court heard.

Ms Carey told the court that Mr O'Keeffe was "a hardworking man who loved the craic" and he was always there to lend a helping hand to whoever needed it, and is a big loss to his family and community where he did a lot of fund-raising for people.

She said that he loved his job as an electrician and loved a challenge, and in the last few years he was the main driver behind the D'hillbillies Mud Run in Mitchelstown and his death had left a huge void in her life and the lives of their three sons.

"We are broken, devastated and still bewildered at what has happened. Bottom line is: Pa is gone, he can't come back.

"He was my partner and we had been together for 16 and 1/2 years. He was a dad, a son, a brother and a friend to many.

"Pa loved his family. He loved life and lived everyday to the full. He never stopped and he had the heartiest laugh. Sometimes I still think I can hear him laughing. I am gone from planning our future to being a lone parent of three boys.

"I know life goes on, as so many people keep telling me, but it doesn't mean it's easy. We have lost our future together, growing old together, doing our travelling and enjoying our kids together. We have been robbed."

Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said Kelly emerged from a byroad on to the old Dublin-Cork road at Barry's Bridge outside Rathcormac, which was a difficult junction and all the more so on this occasion as the defendant was turning right on to it.

Kelly was faced with an oncoming van turning into the by-road as he was exiting on to the main road. "That caused him to think his path of travel was free but there was - outside the turning vehicle - a motorcycle on which the unfortunate deceased was riding.

"It had fatal consequences - the act of emerging when he could not have known his way was clear was dangerous," said Judge O Donnabhain, adding that while Kelly had denied a charge of dangerous driving he had always admitted careless driving causing death, thereby admitting his wrongdoing.

Judge O Donnabhain said that there were absolutely no aggravating factors on Kelly's part, such as speed or alcohol, while Mr O'Keeffe had done everything correctly, being on his correct side and not speeding, and yet he was killed.

"It is a salutary lesson to everyone who sits behind the wheel - we are all casual and neglectful in our driving on occasions," said Judge O Donnabhain as he imposed a six-month suspended sentence on Kelly and disqualified him from driving for four years.