An elderly Tipperary motorist has been given a 12-month suspended sentence for causing a collision which resulted in the death of a cyclist two years ago.
Norman Davis, 76, a commercial van driver and father of three, of Gaulross, Borrisokane, Co Tipperary had pleaded guilty at Tullamore Circuit Criminal Court to careless driving causing the death of Joe Tuohy in a collision on the Roscrea-Shinrone road at Mountheaton Co Offaly on October 7, 2019.
Mr Tuohy who lived a short distance away across the county boundary in Co Tipperary was knocked off his bike when struck by a Toyota Hiace van driven by Davis at around 6.20pm.
The father of six died as a result of extensive brain damage suffered in the crash at University Hospital Limerick two days later.
Davis was originally due to face a charge of dangerous driving causing death but it was substituted for the lesser charge when he was arraigned last March.
Detective Sergeant Brian Jennings told the court that the defendant had told gardaí in interviews that he had been blinded by a low sun but believed he had allowed enough space to safely overtake the cyclist.
One eyewitness, Barry Rodgers said Mr Tuohy had been cycling in the correct position at the edge of the road.
A report by forensic collision expert, Garda Tom Brennan, estimated that Davis was travelling at 42-55km/h at the point of impact.
The court heard there were no mechanical defects with either the van or bicycle and it appeared Mr Tuohy had only been struck by a wing mirror and not the body of the vehicle.
In a victim impact statement, Sam Tuohy described his father as a loving and devoted family man with a great passion for sport, particularly GAA and badminton.
Mr Tuohy said his father was enjoying life to the full by walking and cycling regularly after retiring from working at Mount St Jospeh Abbey in Roscrea.
He claimed his family were “heartbroken and angry” about what had happened on a straight stretch of road.
Mr Tuohy said life was “just so unfair” that they were marking his father’s month’s mind when they should have been celebrating their parent’s wedding anniversary.
In evidence, Davis apologised to his victim’s family for the fatal collision.
Davis told the court that he had not worked since the crash and he had subsequently suffered a mild stroke and temporarily lost his speech.
The court heard that Davis had one previous conviction for careless driving which was imposed one month after the fatal crash.
Pleading for a non-custodial sentence, counsel for the defendant, Colm Smyth SC, said Davis had experienced a serious deterioration in his health since the incident, while he provided care to his sick wife and a daughter.
Judge Keenan Johnson said the victim’s death had resulted from “a momentary lapse of judgement with catastrophic consequences” in what was “an appalling and unspeakable tragedy.”
The judge said Mr Tuohy was completely and utterly blameless for the collision, despite suggestions in a Garda interview by the defendant that the victim should have been wearing a high-viz jacket with lights on his bicycle.
“It happened in daylight hours,” the judge remarked.
He acknowledged that Davis claimed he was blinded by the sun which was supported by the evidence of another witness.
However, Judge Johnson said there were plenty of road safety advertisements which highlighted the need for motorists to slow down and allow room when passing cyclists.
He praised the Tuohy family for their decision to donate the victim’s organ which has helped five transplant patients.
Sentencing Davis to one year in prison, Judge Johnson suspended the entire term for a period of five years, while also disqualifying him from driving for 10 years.
The judge also ordered David to donate €3,000 to Mr Tuohy’s local GAA club, Ballyskeenach/Killavilla within four months to fund a memorial trophy in his name.