independent

Thursday 17 January 2019

Lorry driver is found guilty of careless driving causing death

Sentencing of driver has been adjourned to next February

Lorry driver, Vlastimil Zachar
Lorry driver, Vlastimil Zachar
The scene of the fatal crash at Castlebaldwin

Sorcha Crowley

A 43-year-old driver whose lorry went out of control on the N4 killing a county council worker and injuring two others at Castlebaldwin in 2015 will be sentenced in February after a jury found him guilty of careless driving causing death.

The driver was found guilty last Thursday of careless driving causing death following a three week trial before Judge Francis Comerford and a jury of eight men and four women at Sligo Circuit Court

Czech national Vlastimil Zachar of Connell Drive, Newbridge, Co. Kildare was first acquitted of dangerous driving causing the death of Council worker Padraig Noone (62) but was found guilty of careless driving by the jury which delivered its verdict at 12.40pm, after just over three and a half hours of deliberations.

Zachar's defence team, Ms Eileen O'Leary SC, Mr Pat O'Sullivan BL, instructed by Mr Morgan Coleman solicitor, put forward as a defence Zachar's undiagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, a sleeping disorder in which a person repeatedly stops breathing in their sleep.

Zachar was originally charged and pleaded not guilty to a charge of dangerous driving causing death however the jury were given the option by Judge Frances Comerford of returning the careless driving verdict before he sent them out to begin their deliberations on Wednesday afternoon, 5th December.

At 11.33am on Thursday 6th December, the jury returned to court seeking clarification on the charge of careless driving.

Just over an hour later they reached a unanimous verdict.

Judge Comerford thanked the jury and excused them from jury service for a period of ten years.

He adjourned sentencing to February 12th 2019 and remanded Zachar on continuing bail.

He ordered a Probation Report be prepared on Zachar and the preparation of Victim Impact Statements from the Noone family, and Damien Davey and Anthony Fehily, the two men injured in the crash.

The three week trial heard harrowing evidence of the crash scene at Castlebaldwin on the morning of 13th August 2015, in near perfect weather.

Padraig Noone and the two injured men had been involved in a Council hedge cutting operation when an artic truck driven by Zachar veered into the hard shoulder and ploughed into a Council pick-up truck and a JCB, killing the father-of-two instantly and injuring his colleagues.

Sleep specialist Dr John Garvey carried out tests on Zachar on behalf of his defence team which diagnosed him as having Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

This was confirmed by prosecution sleep expert Professor Richard Costello but he couldn't say whether Zachar's drowsiness on the day was caused by the sleep apnoea or insufficient sleep due to excess work which was another possibility he said.

Ms Orla Crowe SC, Mr Pat Reynolds BL prosecuted Zachar, instructed by State Solicitor for Sligo Ms Elisa McGowan.

During the trial the court heard that the speedometer of the lorry before impact read 90kph. The tachograph, a device fitted to a vehicle which records its speed and distance, was damaged due to the crash.

What was visible on the device showed that Zachar maintained a speed of 90kph until 11.10am the morning of the crash.

Further analysis from the day before showed Zachar was driving for 9 hours 40 minutes.

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