An award of €900,000 was made yesterday to the family of a 42-year-old man fatally injured while training for a charity cycle in Kerry in aid of people with Down Syndrome.
Mr Justice Michael Hanna yesterday approved the settlement offer in the case before the High Court in Cork and wished the heartbroken family all the best in the future.
The late Paud O’Leary was out on an early morning training cycle for the 112-mile Ring of Kerry charity cycle due to take place the following week when he was struck by a passing vehicle and fatally injured at Scrahan Fada, Gneeveguilla, near Killarney, on July 1, 2012.
The father-of-four was a native of Gneeveguilla. His wife Margaret and eldest daughter Shannon, studying genetics at UCC, were present in court yesterday.
Senior counsel Lorraine O’Sullivan, for the family, said there were two younger sons and a daughter, Antoinette, who has Down Syndrome. Ms O’Sullivan said the late Mr O’Leary had been in training for a charity cycle in aid of the Down Syndrome Association.
Ms O’Sullivan said Mr O’Leary’s children were aged 14, 12, 9, and 7 at the time of his death and are now 19, 17, 14, and 13.
She said Antoinette had been doing well but, following a recent setback, was not living as independently as she had been.
“She is a very special member of the family. She has a very supportive, loving, family who fight about who will get to look after her,” Ms O’Sullivan said.
The late Mr O’Leary is also survived by his parents, four brothers and three sisters, all of whom signed waivers in respect of the claim made by his wife and children.
Mr Justice Hanna said he was satisfied to approve the settlement offer entirely on the terms recommended by counsel with the exception of one small amendment. The judge said he would direct payment out of a sum of over €2,000.
“That would be towards something in the nature of a family holiday to remember happy times. What happened was an appalling tragedy but it is important to remember happy times too.
“The very best of luck to you. I wish you a very happy new year,” the judge said to Mrs O’Leary and her daughter Shannon.
In April 2015, a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence was imposed on a young man for dangerous driving causing the death of Mr O’Leary.
Shane Fitzgerald of Knockeen, Meelin, Newmarket, Co Cork, had denied the charge of dangerous driving causing the death. Judge Thomas E O’Donnell, at the time, imposed the sentence and said the collision ‘blew’ Mr O’Leary off the road so much so that his body and his bike were some distance behind a hedge.
The charge encompassed the speed and the condition of Fitzgerald’s grey Toyota Landcruiser — a vehicle which had been identified from debris at the accident scene but which had never been found despite extensive Garda searches .
Fitzgerald had left the scene and the day after the offence left for the UK and subsequently Australia. He was arrested in February of 2014 at Heathrow Airport having been spotted by an Irish citizen in the UK en route back to Australia.
Over three-and-a-half hours of silent CCTV images were shown to the jury, including footage showing Fitzgerald drinking heavily before getting into his vehicle on the night in question.
Michael O’Higgins defence senior counsel in the criminal trial in Kerry, after the jury returned a guilty verdict, said the accused acknowledged his involvement and his culpability.
“He accepts now the cause of the accident lay with him,” Mr O’Higgins had said.
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