Man sentenced to seven years for causing deaths of sisters

John O’Connor (41) pleaded guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal Court to a charge of dangerous driving

A child’s buggy at the scene of the accident on the Milltown Road outside Tuam in October 2012.

A child’s buggy at the scene of the accident on the Milltown Road outside Tuam in October 2012.

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 21:04

A 41-year-old man with a lifelong history of epilepsy has been sentenced to seven years in prison with the final three years suspended, and disqualified from driving for 20 years, for causing the deaths of two baby sisters near Tuam two years ago.

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 21st, 2012.

John O’Connor, with an address at 5 Waterslade Downs,Tuam, pleaded guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal Court to a single charge of dangerous driving at the Demesne, Tuam on 21 October, 2012, which caused the deaths of Kate and Grace Gilmore.

State prosecutor, Patrick McGrath SC, told the sentence hearing yesterday that O’Connor had been involved in another collision moments beforehand where he had driven through a red light and collided with a jeep. He left the scene of that accident and was observed by other motorists swerving and driving erratically. He almost collided with 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 collision.

Superintendent Gearoid Begley said the accused told gardaí during interview 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 had remained seizure-free for six or seven years and was driving during that time. Then in February, 2012, the seizures began again. He had seizures in March, April and in June, by which time he was told by his doctors not to drive until he was seizure-free for at least a year.

Victim impact statements from 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.