A woman has been found guilty by unanimous verdict of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to an American tourist near Tralee in August 2013.
Veterinary assistant Aine Stack, aged 23, of Bedford, Listowel, Co Kerry, had pleaded not guilty at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee to an initial charge of dangerous causing the death of John Lenahan, aged 67, from Colorado, on August 30, 2013, at Clogherbrien, a crossroads near Tralee.
Mr Lenahan died in hospital on September 10, 2013.
The deceased had been a front-seat passenger in the hired black Nissan Qashqai car driven by his son, Robert.
The large vehicle held three generations of the Lenahan family. They had arrived at Kerry Airport that morning and were on their way to a seafood restaurant near Fenit.
Robert Lenahan told the trial he and his father had shared an interest in photography and had been discussing the sunset ahead of them on the R558 road towards Fenit when the accident involving the white Vauxhall car driven by Ms Stack occurred.
Ms Stack been at the beach with her brothers and their friend and had emerged from a lesser road onto the path of the American tourists, the jury were told.
Forensics crash investigator Garda James formed the opinion that the Vauxhall driven by Ms Stack had failed to stop on its way from the lesser road from the Cockleshell Strand in the Kerries and had gone into the side of the larger Nissan Qashqai, driving it across the road onto a wall.
Garda O’Brien said the road from the Kerries had a good view of the R558 “in both directions”.
The trial took “a dramatic turn” on Friday, the second day of the trial, when the charge was amended by the prosecution to that of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm.
Evidence from a surgeon that was read into court told how the late John Lenahan was admitted to intensive care and his condition had improved. Unfortunately, he died on September 10 due to sudden cardio-collapse.
It emerged that, in November 2014, State pathologist Margot Bolster had made a written submission furnished to the gardaí that it could not be said “to the criminal standard of proof this collision caused the death of Mr Lenahan”.
The first time the defence saw the letter submitted by Dr Bolster in November 2014 was on the second day of the trial. The charge was therefore amended.
There were no aggravating factors, the vehicle was in good condition, there was no alcohol involved and Ms Stack had never come to the attention of gardaí.
Yesterday, Judge Thomas E O’Donnell told the jury as he sent them out that they could consider a guilty verdict of the lesser charge of careless driving or they could bring in a not guilty verdict.
After just over an hour deliberating, the jury returned their verdict of guilty of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm.
Sentencing was brought forward to facilitate Robert Lenahan, who was returning to the US today.
There were emotional scenes after Robert Lenahan read his short victim impact statement.
The events of August 2013 had a traumatic impact on his family, losing a husband, a father, and a grandfather in such an unnecessary way was hard to fathom, said Robert Lenahan.
“My family has done well trying to continue with their lives, but his has been difficult,” he said.
He said his wife Amy still panicked in a car, and both she and his mother still suffered physically and would for the rest of their lives.
“However, as a family, we believe Ms Stack’s intentions that day were not to kill my dad,” he said.
He added that her life should not be ruined and she should not serve time in prison.
“We believe, as a family, in forgiveness, my dad would as well,” he said.
Afterwards, Robert Lenahan approached Ms Stack to speak with her and comfort her.
Judge Thomas E O’Donnell has adjourned passing sentence to tomorrow. He thanked the jury of five men and seven women and excused them from jury service for five years.
John O’Sullivan, defending, has asked that Ms Stack not be jailed. This was a single error of a momentary nature, he put to Garda Lisa Kearney, and the garda agreed that this was the case.
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