Three years' jail for bus driver in crash

Thu, May 24, 2012, 01:00

A BUS driver involved in a fatal road crash in Co Meath has been jailed for three years.

Sorin Dinu (45), Castlecurragh Heath, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15, was driving a Bus Éireann coach when his vehicle became airborne at a roundabout on the old Dublin-Galway road near Enfield on February 23rd, 2009, and struck the top of an SUV driven by Cathal O’Leary (37).

Mr O’Leary, who was driving to work in Dublin, died instantly.

The defendant, who had originally denied a charge of dangerous driving causing the death of Mr O’Leary at Johnstown, Enfield, Co Meath, pleaded guilty on the fourth day of his trial at Trim Circuit Court earlier this year.

The court heard the bus was approaching the roundabout on a misty morning just before 6.30am when it veered to the right onto the wrong side of the road, colliding with the raised island in the centre of the roundabout.

The bus became airborne and its rear undercarriage struck the top of Mr O’Leary’s SUV, which was on the opposite side of the roundabout. The bus continued on and crashed through a fence and into a field before coming to a halt 48m away.

The court was told the tachograph in the bus showed it had been travelling at 75km/h as it entered the mouth of the roundabout.

The defendant had told gardaí the brakes in the bus had failed to respond as he approached the roundabout.

However, a subsequent inspection found the vehicle was in good mechanical order and the brakes were working properly.

A forensic examination of the scene found no sign of brake marks on the road.

Sentence had been adjourned until yesterday to allow time for the preparation of a probation report on the defendant and victim impact statements from Mr O’Leary’s partner and family.

Elizabeth Finn, the dead man’s partner, who had been a front-seat passenger in his jeep on the day of the crash, told the court they had talked of having a family and growing old together, but the world had stopped for her the day he died.

She could no loner go places they had gone together. “There were too many reminders,” she said.

She had suffered stress and trauma and had become withdrawn, finding it difficult some days even to get up, she said.

Lorraine O’Leary, the dead man’s sister, told the court he had been a great son, brother and uncle, and that his death had left the family with an unbearable amount of pain.

“Our grief has been exacerbated by the media coverage of the trial, especially the television image of the crashed vehicles,” she said.

The defendant, a father of two, broke down in the witness box and sobbed as he extended his sympathy to the family.

“I want to express my endless sorrow for the unfortunate incident which caused his death. I don’t know what happened. I am asking myself a thousand times what happened but there is no answer,” he said.

A defence barrister told the court his client, who had come to Ireland from Romania in 2002, had been under stress at work prior to the crash as he had been told he was to be made redundant and had feared that he would not be able to maintain the payments on his mortgage loan.

His client had to work one of his rest days in the previous week, had only five hours’ sleep on the night before the incident, and a psychiatric report indicated he may have fallen asleep at the wheel just before the incident, the barrister added.

Judge Michael O’Shea said the evidence had shown that the defendant had failed to approach the roundabout at the proper speed and had allowed the bus to go out of control.

He said Cathal O’Leary was irreplaceable and his loss was catastrophic, and while the incident had been a tragedy for Sorin Dinu, he still had his life to look forward to.

The judge imposed a prison sentence of three years and a 10-year driving ban.