Driver fined over ‘momentary lapse’ that killed teacher

A man who admitted that his driving caused the death of an “inspirational” teacher in a head-on collision last year has put flowers at the scene of the fatal crash and met with the victim’s family yesterday, a court heard.

Alice Strain, aged 45, of Dungarvan, Co Waterford, was fatally injured when the car being driven by her fiance, Pat Crowley, collided with a van that veered onto its incorrect side of the road in a “momentary lapse”.

The driver of the van, Frans Coenraad, aged 44, of Meeuewenstraat, Goor, the Netherlands, pleaded guilty at Waterford Circuit Court yesterday to dangerous driving, causing the death of Ms Strain, and serious bodily harm to Mr Crowley.

He was fined €1,000 and ordered to pay €4,000 to the St Vincent de Paul after Ms Strain’s sisters indicated via prosecutor Noel Whelan that they had “no discomfort” with such a penalty.

Judge Pauline Codd also disqualified Coenraad from driving for four years.

Some of the girls taught by Ms Strain at the Presentation Convent in Clonmel released a charity single in her memory last year.

The crash occurred at about 11.40pm on April 4 at Ballyduff West, Kilmeaden, Co Waterford, hours after Coenraad arrived by ferry at Rosslare, en route to making a delivery in Listowel.

The court heard Ms Strain’s sisters — Mary, Stella, and Vera — met with the defendant before yesterday’s sentencing hearing. Coenraad has been back in Ireland on six occasions since the incident, and visited the scene of the crash to lay flowers.

A letter addressed by the defendant to the Strain family and to Patrick Crowley who was not able to attend court yesterday, was read out by his barrister, Colman Cody. “Not a day passes that I do not relive the accident in my mind and wish that it had all gone differently,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, I can never take away your loss and grief, but I hope that you understand that it was an unfortunate accident and that I never meant it to happen.”

The court heard that there was no drink or drugs involved at the time of the crash and Coenraad was not speeding.

Making her ruling, Judge Codd said it was an “unusual case” and accepted that Coenraad “made a momentary error of judgment”. She commended the Strain family on their dignity “and the manner in which they have dealt with” the case.


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