Cyclist hit by car in ‘tragic case’ had no helmet

A 48-year-old woman has been convicted of careless driving causing the death of a woman cyclist on the outskirts of Tralee in what the judge described as “a tragic accident” last January.

The court was told the driver had been emerging from a filling station at Rathass and both parties had been travelling at very low speeds. The cyclist, who was on a child’s bike, had not been wearing a helmet which might have saved her life, the court was told.

Public street lights which might have increased visibility were not working at the time.

It was rare that such a charge could be dealt with at district court level, but as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had directed that the lower court could do so if a guilty plea was entered.

Sinéad Cotter, a married woman of Castlewood Park, Killerisk, Tralee, pleaded guilty to a charge of driving without due care and attention on January 29 at Rathass, Tralee, thereby causing the death of Siobhán Moriarty Fitzgerald, aged 31.

Inspector Tony Sugrue said this was a tragic case.

Ms Cotter, who was emerging from Kelleher’s garage slowly, had not seen the cyclist, who was on a child’s bike with no helmet, no fluorescent jacket and no light.

The car was travelling very slow and so was the bicycle.

Ms Fitzgerald had hit the ground and received head injuries and lost her life as a result.

Declan Duggan, solicitor for Sinead Cotter,

said this was a most tragic and unfortunate set of events and his client waned to convey her deepest sympathy to the family of Ms Fitzgerald.

Ms Cotter was a lifelong pioneer and had never been prosecuted for anything, had not even received a parking ticket.

Ms Cotter — who the court was told was 48 yesterday — was pleading guilty to remove any doubts about any civil procedures should they arise, the solicitor said.

It had been accepted also that two street lights were not operating at the time in question.

“Perhaps if the lighting was better she would have seen the cyclist,” Mr Duggan said.

This was a very, low-speed incident, the Garda Public Service Vehicle Inspector had found.

Ms Cotter’s car, albeit 10 years old, was in good mechanical order, fully taxed and insured. There was minimal damage to the car, Mr Duggan outlined.

Judge James O’Connor, who accepted jurisdiction, said this was a very tragic case where a car and a bicycle were both travelling slowly and where the cyclist was not wearing a helmet which might have protected her head.

It was something that Ms Cotter would bear for the rest of her life, and think of daily.

He would however have to convict her and he was doing so. He disqualified Ms Cotter for nine months and fined her €500.

The disqualification will run from January.

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