Steel bars on trailer struck woman

The motorist on trial for dangerous driving causing serious injury to a neighbour saluted her the moment before she was struck across the legs by long iron bars that had gone sideways on his trailer.

Michael Herlihy, aged 38, of Derry, Rosscarbery, Co Cork, was yesterday on the second day of his trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Frances O’Driscoll, aged 59, on April 16, 2016, at Causeway, Rosscarbery, and failing to take adequate precaution to prevent a load from falling from a vehicle.

“I spotted a woman out walking. I waved to her. I knew her. I passed her. I saw the woman after falling,” Mr Herlihy told gardaí.

A memo of that interview was read yesterday to Judge Brian O’Callaghan and the jury.

The defendant said he was too upset to speak at the scene but pointed to Mrs O’Driscoll’s home as it was being discussed that someone should go to notify her family of the accident.

“To this day, I don’t know what happened,” he said. “Not a morning or a night goes past that I don’t think about Frances O’Driscoll.”

He told gardaí the only reason he went back to the trailer to straighten up the bars afterwards was so as to prevent another accident.

The defendant had gone to Lissavard co-op that morning to buy 12 6m bars of steel for foundations of a wall he was building.

He said he strapped the bars to the bed of the trailer, leaving them overhanging at the back because of their length. He used a ratchet-style strap to tie them up and tied the strapping on to attachments at the side of the trailer. He recalled putting seatbelts on his two sons in the back of the 4x4.

In her closing speech to the jury, Siobhán Lankford, prosecuting, referred to the evidence of Thomas Brosnan, public service vehicle inspector, who made four pertinent points.

Firstly, he said it could have been made safer with a longer trailer. Failing that, two lashing straps could have been used to make it more secure. Thirdly, matting between the tailgate and the bars could have reduced the tendency to slide. Finally, the driver could have made more use of his wing mirrors to check his load was in its correct position.

Ms Lankford said that the defendant was qualified and experienced in securing loads to be lifted by a crane.

Referring to evidence of the driver travelling behind, Ms Lankford said gardaí calculated that the defendant travelled 327 metres to the point of the accident with the bars loose and slipping sideways on the trailer.

Ms Lankford said driving in such circumstances could be considered dangerous.

Tom Creed, defending, said in his closing speech the alleged dangerous driving was not as cut and dried as contended by the prosecution. He said the bars may have been becoming loose for some distance but might only have been sideways to a greater degree for a short distance before the accident.

“I say the prosecution have not brought you [the jury] to the point where it was dangerous driving rather than careless driving,” said Mr Creed.

“It is open to you to bring in a verdict of careless driving causing serious injury. I am not going to suggest you go below that. To do so would be an insult to your intelligence.”


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