Fatal crash will haunt family ‘for rest of our lives’ as driver jailed for 5 years

A daughter whose parents were killed by a driver with nearly twice the legal alcohol level spoke of the heartbreak which will haunt her family to the day they die.

Maurice and Margaret Hartnett from Co Limerick died when a 4x4 driven by Michael Harty came onto the wrong side of road and ploughed into their car.

Harty, aged 29, of St Mary’s Terrace, Askeaton, Co Limerick, was found guilty at Limerick Circuit Court on Jan 25 of dangerous driving causing the deaths of Maurice, aged 61, and his wife, Margaret aged 59, of Gurteen, Ballingarry, on Jul 29, 2009.

He was yesterday jailed for five years and put off the road for 30 years.

Elizabeth Hartnett told the sentencing hearing that words cannot describe the heartbreak the family now endure for every minute of every hour of every day.

In a victim impact statement, she said emotions were still burning deep inside all six siblings, adding: “We did not get a chance to say goodbye to mam and dad and they did not have a chance to say goodbye to us and this will haunt us to the day we die. The vice grip called grief has taken hold of each and every one of us and we feel locked into our own bodies. All the while, we have to try and muster the strength to carry on with everyday life and to try and look after our own families as best we can.”

There were now two empty chairs in the old family home, she said.

“We will ensure that their spirit is kept alive in each of the family as well as their grandkids. Nana always had the press full with sweets and grandad was always sitting by the fire with a welcome smile for all.”

Judge Moran said Ms Hartnett’s very dignified statement underlined the very deep trauma and loss the family had suffered.

He said Harty had a previous conviction for dangerous driving and speeding and at the time of the crash was driving with an alcohol level of 153.9 — the legal limit was 80. He took into account a paediatrician’s report that set out a condition two of his children suffer from which requires daily medical care from both parents, and that Harty gave consent for gardaí to access his hospital medical record that led gardaí to the blood test report.

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