Jury fails to reach verdict in fatal car accident case

A JURY in the trial of a Kerryman charged with dangerous driving causing the deaths of a garda and a firefighter were last night discharged at Limerick Circuit Court after they could not agree on a verdict following three weeks of evidence.

Niall Shannon, 21, of Lenamore, Ballylongford pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths of Garda Brian Kelleher, aged 46, and fire-fighter Mike Liston, aged 47, on February 25, 2007, at Barrigone, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

This was the second trial in which a jury could not agree on a verdict of dangerous driving causing death.

At the first trial, Shannon was found guilty by a jury of driving with excess alcohol.

What was a relatively non-serious accident at Barrigone on the morning of February 25, 2007, led to a series of events which had catastrophic consequences for Garda Kelleher and firefighter Liston.

A Toyota overturned on a bend near the entrance to the Aughinish Alumina plant and the sole occupant, a women from north Kerry was uninjured, but badly shaken.

Garda Kelleher, who was stationed in Croom, was filling in for a colleague that night and he along with Garda Ollie O’Sullivan went to the scene.

Foynes fire station members were also alerted and Mr Liston and his colleagues attended the scene, where they closed off the road as a recovery truck moved in to remove the Toyota.

Advance warning lights and signs were placed on the roadway to alert oncoming traffic and firefighters took up positions at both sides of the scene with illuminated sticks to flag down oncoming traffic.

At around 5.10am a car suddenly drove in from the Foynes direction, striking the side of the Foynes fire tender, before mowing down Gda Kelleher and Mr Liston.

Three young men emerged from the Audi car which had come from the Foynes direction.

The driver, Niall Shannon, now 21, was the driver. He had been socialising in Moyvane and Listowel before he and two friends struck off for Limerick at around 4.30am.

Shannon’s phone showed up a series of text messages in the minutes leading up to the crash.

As he smelt of drink he was arrested and a breath test at Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick showed a reading of 55 micrograms of alcohol per 100 mililitres of breath. The limit is 35.

Witnesses at the trial told of seeing advance warning lights.

When the Audi drove into the accident scene at a speed estimated at somewhere between 59.8kph and 71.3kph, flashing lights were working on a garda patrol car parked on the Foynes side of the scene facing the oncoming Audi, the fire tender, an ambulance, the recovery truck and beacon flash lights were also placed on the roadway on both sides of the scene.

The defence claimed the advance warning signs were not located far enough away from the scene of the first crash to effectively warn oncoming traffic in good time.

The prosecution witness, Garda Michael Reddy, gave evidence of various sites at the scene and said thatoncoming traffic would have sufficient advance warning from where flashing lights were located and visible to allow a car stop, even if it was travelling at speed.

Defence witness, Michael Moroney, who was employed as a driver by the Shannondoc GP co-op drove the doctor summoned to the scene and he said he did not see any advance warning lights and only realised there was a crash scene when he rounded a bend and had to brake hard to avoid crashing into the scene.

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