Two-year-old Kate Gilmore and her 12-week-old sister Grace were out for a stroll with their father John, and were both asleep at 12.35pm when their twin buggy was hit head-on by a Toyota Avensis car which had veered into the hard shoulder on the N17, near Tuam, on Sunday, October 21, 2012.
John O’Connor, with an address at 5 Waterslade Downs, Tuam, Co Galway, pleaded guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal to a single charge of dangerous driving at the Demesne, Tuam, on October 21, 2012, which caused the deaths of Kate and Grace Gilmore.
State prosecutor Patrick McGrath SC told the sentence hearing that O’Connor had been involved in another collision moments before where he had driven through a red light and collided with a 4x4. He left the scene of that accident and was observed by other motorists swerving and driving erratically. He almost struck a jogger on the hard shoulder seconds before his car “ploughed” into Mr Gilmore and his two little daughters.
The girls suffered “catastrophic injuries” and were rushed to hospital where they were pronounced dead a short time later.
Mr Gilmore was also treated for injuries in hospital.
The accused was given medication at the scene by a passing doctor who thought he was having an epileptic fit and was also removed to hospital.
O’Connor was arrested and interviewed the following day. He had no recollection of either accident.
Supt Gearoid Begley said the accused told gardaí that he had been given medical advice not to drive in June 2012.
He told them he had suffered from epileptic seizures all his life and had brain surgery at Beaumont Hospital in 2004 to alleviate the condition. He began driving on medical advice because he had remained seizure-free but the seizures began again in February 2012.
He had seizures in March, April, and June, by which time he was told by his doctors not to drive until he was seizure-free for a year.
Victim impact statements from the girls’ parents, John and Michelle Gilmore, were read by Mr McGrath to a hushed courtroom.
In his statement, John Gilmore said four people died that day but only two corpses were buried. He said he and his wife would have to carry the pain of their loss with them for the rest of their lives.
“We had two children to put to bed on the Saturday night and had two corpses the next day,” he said.
Michelle Gilmore said in her statement that their two beautiful daughters had been cruelly taken from them and their lives were shattered forever.
The family had just returned from holiday and she had suggested John take the girls for a walk so she might unpack and get the dinner ready.
“I keep asking myself, why did I suggest the walk,” she said.
O’Connor, who has been diagnosed with a borderline learning disability, took the stand and apologised to the family.
“I think the Gilmores must feel a million below zero and nothing I say is going to seem the right thing,” he said.
Judge Rory McCabe also disqualified John O’Connor from driving for 20 years and directed he could only reapply for a licence after that time had elapsed once he had secured “express medical approval”.