State sought dangerous driving charge for teen
Edward O’Shea, of Magnh, Fenor, is to appear in Waterford Circuit Criminal Court on February 26th to learn his sentencing date, having been found guilty of careless driving causing death in the case of Katie Murphy (16) from Ballinamona. The 19-year-old had been at the wheel of his white Toyota Levin after 8pm on October 5th 2016, when it went out of control and crashed at the entrance to the Carrigeenlea estate on the outskirts of Tramore.
Back-seat passenger Katie Murphy (16), from Ballinamona, died after being rushed to University Hospital Waterford (UHW) while two other passengers, Joe Walsh and Jessica Flynn, were injured. Mr O’Shea denied a charge of dangerous driving causing death in the case of Ms Murphy and he also denied two counts of dangerous driving causing harm to Mr Walsh and Ms Flynn. Judge Eugene O’Kelly told the jury on Wednesday last, February 6th that they had three options: they could find Mr O’Shea guilty of dangerous driving, of careless driving, or they could find him not guilty at all. After under two hours of deliberations, they returned a verdict that found him guilty of careless driving on all three counts. Judge Eugene O’Kelly remanded Mr O’Shea on bail and adjourned the case until February 26th.
During the course of the six-day trial, the court heard from those involved directly in the crash and from residents in the Carrigeenlea estate. Jessica Flynn, who was a back-seat passenger along with Ms Murphy in the car, had told the court that she had no idea what speed the car was travelling at because she was on her phone. She agreed with the defence that the journey had been fairly normal and said she had no recollection as to whether she had been wearing a seatbelt. Ms Flynn and Katie Murphy had been picked up by Mr O’Shea at Ms Murphy’s house and were at Canon’s Carpark in Tramore when they decided to drive to the Guillamene. Two other cars, driven by James O’Sullivan and James Reville, were also present and Edward O’Shea’s car lead the way for the drive. After driving down Priest’s Road and past Spar, they took a left and were on the Cliff Road.
The last thing Jessica Flynn remembered from the car was looking in Katie Murphy’s direction as the car went towards the wall at the Carrigeenlea Estate entrance.She next remembered waking up in hospital, and had suffered several injuries including a bleed on the brain, a broken pelvis and a fractured skull. James O’Sullivan’s car followed directly after Mr O’Shea’s, and the court heard there had been no pressure on any of the young drivers, that it was “purely a drive”. Mr O’Shea had to manoeuvre his car slowly over the bumps as his Toyota Levin was lower to the ground, it was recalled. Mr O’Sullivan estimated he had been driving at a speed of 60-65km around the bends along the Cliff Road, while the other driver, James Reville said he had been driving at roughly 40-50km. He said he had left the carpark a short time after the other cars. A passenger in Mr O’Sullivan’s car told the court that there was no one moving in the accused’s car when they came across the crash.The court also heard evidence from a number of occupants of houses in the Carrigeenlea Estate.
Fergal Bonner, from Number 10 Carrigeenlea, had heard a car travelling very fast. The car got “louder and louder…We were almost on tenterhooks waiting for something to happen”. The noise of the car then went quiet, before a loud bang could be heard. Noel Kennedy, from Number 24 Carrigeenlea, about 80 metres from the entrance to the estate, said he had heard a bang. When he realised there was no shouting or screaming coming from the car, he knew the accident was serious. Edward O’Shea was described as being dazed and confused at the scene after being helped from the car. The jury heard that Detective Garda Paul O’Flynn, who arrested Mr O’Shea, had said the defendant had provided him with his phone as well as his PIN code. He said there being no evidence that Mr O’Shea had been on his phone in the moments prior to the crash.
The court also heard that Mr O’Shea had not been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. Mr O’Shea was a learner driver at the time and was not accompanied by a driver with a full license. His car had passed its NCT a few weeks prior to the incident. The front driver’s wheel had been produced to the court, having shot off the vehicle and being found 22km away from the estate entrance. Garda Joe Robinson, a Public Service Vehicle Inspector, said the car’s tyres were budget tyres but were legal.He said the seatbelts in the front of the car had been worn at the time of the crash but couldn’t determinate if the back-seat had been worn. Conditions at the time of the crash were relatively mild with visibility up to 10km, according to meteorologist Vincent O’Shea. The defence had called Dr Mark Jordan to speak before the court. Dr Jordan is a chartered engineer specialising in impact dynamics.He inspected the location of entrance to the estate, as well as the vehicle at the garage, on 10 September 2018. He said that someone could take the turn 20 times and have no accident. The change in grip from the differing surfaces, the road and the estate entrance, had a part to play and caused an oversteer, he added. A split second of a difference and the accident could have been avoided while the damage to the wheels was not indicative of speed, said Mr Jordan. When it was put to him that speed was the single biggest factor, he disagreed and said everything was very marginal.
If Edward O’Shea was driving at a lower speed then he probably would have made the turn, Dr Jordan added. However, he did not accept that the defendant was driving too fast.
The defence’s case was that there were four different factors behind the crash. These were the adverse topography, the split grip of the three surfaces, the number of passengers loading the car, and that the speed was marginally over what it should have been. Barrister Conor O’Doherty, prosecuting, said the jury should apply common sense. Mr O’Doherty further told them they were entitled to draw inference when coming to a conclusion and that they should follow the threads. The court heard how Mr O’Shea himself said he had been careless and hadn’t come to the court claiming he was blameless. Summing up, Judge Eugene O’Kelly told the jury that “bad driving can fall anywhere along a spectrum”. At one end, he continued, there is dangerous driving and in the middle there is careless driving. He noted that the State was alleging dangerous driving.
The packed courtroom was silent as each verdict was read out, with the jury returning an unanimous verdict. They found Mr O’Shea guilty of careless driving causing death to Katie Murphy and guilty of careless driving causing harm to Jessica Flynn and to Joe Walsh.