A young woman has been cleared of a charge of careless driving causing the death of a Cork man on the outskirts of Laragh, Co Wicklow, four years ago following a trial at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court.
Emer O’Dea, 27, of Ballydowling, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, had pleaded not guilty to the offence but had admitted she was driving the Volkswagen Golf which collided with pedestrian Noel O'Connell shortly after 2am on April 7, 2019, and caused his death.
A jury of six men and six women returned a unanimous verdict of “not guilty” in the case after deliberating for about three hours.
A trial at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court heard Mr O'Connell, a married father of four of Ballinguilly, Ballincollig, Co Cork, had been lying on the road between Lynhams Hotel and the Beechwood estate in Laragh when the collision occurred.
The jury also found Ms O’Dea not guilty of two other charges under the Road Traffic Act of failing to offer assistance and failing to keep her vehicle at the scene of an accident by a majority verdict.
Another motorist who was travelling in the opposite direction, Nikita Byrne-McCoy, told the trial she had slowed down and stopped after seeing an object on the opposite side of the road which she initially thought was a bag of rubbish or a deer as another car was coming towards her.
Ms Byrne-McCoy said the accused’s vehicle struck the object like “hitting a speed bump”.
Another motorist, Anthony Egan, said he also saw an object on the road and stopped his van.
The trial heard evidence Mr O'Connell's body was dragged for almost 19m along the road.
In a closing submission, counsel for the DPP Jane Hyland SC said Ms O’Dea had come back to the scene of the collision eight minutes later after it had occurred after she had first gone to the nearby house of her boyfriend, Mark McNally.
Although Ms Hyland said the defendant would not have known that Mr O’Connell was killed almost instantaneously, she pointed out Ms O’Dea had made no attempt to get assistance for him.
The court heard Ms O’Dea had given different versions of what had occurred in two statements she had provided to gardaí.
Counsel for Ms O’Dea, Paul Murray SC, said there was no evidence his client had been speeding at the time of the incident and there was no defects with her vehicle.
Mr Murray said Ms O’Dea had been attending a 21st birthday party on the night but had drunk no alcohol.
He said she had slowed down as there was an oncoming vehicle with bright lights.
Mr Murray claimed Ms O’Dea originally thought the object on the road was a plastic bag but realised after the collision she had struck a person whom she knew would need help.
However, he said she went to her boyfriend’s house, where she had collapsed screaming, to get help as she had no signal on her mobile phone and went straight back down to the scene with her boyfriend.
The trial before Judge Patrick Quinn heard the deceased, who was wearing dark clothing, was intoxicated and had taken a wrong turn from where he was staying in Laragh after being out socialising earlier that night.