Man tells inquest how he saw his wife and daughter die in freak road traffic accident in Cork

Geraldine and Louise Clancy.

A man whose wife and daughter died in a freak road traffic accident hopes their deaths will result in new road safety improvements before the end of the year, writes Eoin English of the Irish Examiner.

Noel Clancy made his comments today after a double inquest into the deaths of Geraldine and Louise Clancy, from Kilworth, Fermoy north Cork, following a crash on the R666 Ballyduff to Fermoy road just after 11am on December 22, 2015.

The inquest established that Ms Clancy, 58, and Louise, 22, both died from acute cardiorespiratory failure due to drowning following a road traffic accident after their Ford Focus was struck by an Opel Vectra driven by a neighbour, Susan Gleeson, who failed to make a left turn in her father's car at a yield junction.

She had been driving for about eight months, and had nine driving lessons before the accident.

She lost control of the Vectra, which veered onto the Clancy's side of the road and struck the Focus, shunting it through a 3.5m missing section of roadside wall, where it overturned and fell roof first into a flooded 2.4m wide drain.

Susan Gleeson.

Several people tried to help but they couldn't open the car doors which were jammed against the sides of the narrow drain. The women drowned in 82cm of water before they could be freed.

Ms Gleeson, who was 21 at the time, received a three-year suspended jail sentence at Cork Circuit Criminal Court last November after pleadIng guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths. She was also disqualified from driving for 15 years.

In her statement read at the inquest, Ms Gleeson said she thought she could make the left turn in her father's car, where the R667 meets the R666, but misjudged the bend.

"I thought I could make the turn and stay on my side, but I took the turn too wide. It happened in a split second. I felt it wasn't that strong an impact," she said.

"I was not speeding. I was too fast for that junction. I misjudged the junction. I didn't have my full concentration on the road."

Eyewitness Edmund Dick said in his opinion, the Vectra was travelling at excessive speed for the junction.

The inquest also heard how Mr Clancy came upon the accident moments later and helped neighbours lift the trapped car free using telescopic loaders, unaware that the victims were his wife and daughter.

Noel Clancy wIth Fiona and Declan outside court in November last year.

He said he didn't recognise the women as fire fighters administered CPR and only realised the tragedy when he saw the registration plate on the car.

"When I saw the number plate, I knew it was our car, and that the woman and girl were Geraldine and Louise. I knew Louise was dead. They were working on Geraldine and they were getting lots of water out of her mouth I said 'come on Geraldine, you can do it'," he said.

But both women were pronounced dead at the scene at 12.20pm.

Ms Gleeson apologised directly to the Clancy family from the witness box today and said she never meant for this to happen.

"It was an accident. Every day I think about it," she said.

But Mr Clancy said he could not accept her apology.

"She willingly, knowingly broke the law. She's a law student. She must have known that she was breaking the law," he said.

"She admitted today that if somebody was with her (in the car) it might not have happened.

"Where was the car owner, why the did the car owner allow her to drive the car?"

The jury recommended that the Transport Minister give gardaí the power to impound cars being driven by unaccompanied learner drivers, and further recommended that the gap in the wall at the accident site - which has been there since 2009 at least - be repaired as quickly as possible.

Mr Clancy said he understands that Cork County Council plans to start that work within weeks, and that he hopes to incorporate a memorial plaque at the scene.

The yield junction has since been made a stop junction, the inquest was told.

Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy offered his condolences to the Clancy family, and paid tribute to Mr Clancy for his road safety efforts, which resulted before Christmas in amendments to road traffic law which makes the owners of cars accountable if they allow their vehicle to be driven by an unaccompanied learner drivers.

"In a split second, two family members lost their loves, and another person's life has been ruined forever," he said.

"No words can provide any comfort but I hope the jury recommendations will bring you some comfort and that the conclusion of this process will help in the healing process," he said.

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