Luas driver acquitted over crash
A Luas driver who crashed into a Dublin Bus injuring 21 people has been acquitted of dangerous conduct by direction of the trial judge.
Oriyomi Emmanuel (39) was told he was free to go after the judge ruled there were gaps in the evidence and it would be unsafe to allow the jury decide on the case.
Mr Emmanuel of Jamestown Park, Ratoath, Co Meath, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court under the Railway Safety Act 2005 to the unsafe operation of a tram at the junction of Middle Abbey Street and O’Connell Street on September 16th, 2009.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring said there was a discrepancy between the evidence presented by the Garda crash investigator and the Luas investigator concerning the distance the tram was from the signal when it stopped at the junction.
This was “central to the case” because evidence had been presented that there was a shadow cast on the signal which grew worse as the tram got closer to it.
Sergeant John Reynolds, a forensic crash investigator, gave evidence that he carried out a recreation of the incident a week later using CCTV images and another Luas.
He said from the recreation he estimated the Luas stopped at the junction for under a minute then moved 0.8 metres closer to the light before stopping again.
Christopher Earls, an engineer with Veolia Transport, which operates the Luas, said he downloaded the tachograph data from the tram after the crash. The tachograph records the tram’s movement and speed.
He said this showed the driver moved two metres towards the signal before stopping.
Hugh Hartnett SC, defending Mr Emmanuel, earlier suggested that a “cowl” above the Luas traffic signal made it more difficult to read as the tram got closer to it.
Judge Ring commented that because Mr Emmanuel did not appear to be “reckless or inappropriate” in his actions, the signal was a central issue.
Mr Emmanuel initially insisted to gardaí he had the signal to proceed. He later broke down in tears as gardaí played him CCTV showing he did not have a go signal.
“There is a difference between two metres and point eight metres”, the judge said.
She said because of the discrepancy, the jury would have to speculate if Mr Emmanuel would still have been able to see the signal clearly if he was a metre closer to it.
“Clearly this is something the jury should not have to do.” She noted the investigating sergeant was “handicapped” as he did not have access to the tachograph data before the trial. She said he was not at fault for this as he was not given the data.
Judge Ring explained to the jury it would be unsafe to allow them “to speculate to fill in the gaps.” She said this was not a decision she was taking lightly as it was such a serious case.
“We’ve all seen the video, this is not a minor matter,” she told them for thanking them and exempting them from further service for three years.
Mr Emmanuel cried and held his head in his hands as the ruling was made. He blessed himself as the court rose. He refused to comment outside the court.
The trial heard he was “extraordinarily proud” of his job, had a clean safety record and was popular with his colleagues.