Driver of Athy car in which four died was on learner permit licence

Car had no NCT or L-plate, trial hears


The trial of a young woman charged with dangerous driving causing the death of four friends has been told she did not have a full driving licence and was not accompanied by a qualified driver.

It was also stated that the car in which the four died did not have an NCT certificate, was not displaying an L-plate and had two soft tyres that caused it to veer across the road, crashing into an oncoming van.

Dayna Kearney (23) of Crossneen, Carlow has pleaded not guilty to the charge of causing death by dangerous driving and knowingly driving a defective vehicle at Burtown, Kildare on January 6th, 2015.

Ms Kearney was the driver of a Volkswagen Polo that collided with a transporter van on the N78. Passengers Gemma Nolan (19), Chermaine Carroll (20), and Niamh Doyle (19), all from Carlow, and Aisling Middleton (19) from Athy, died almost instantly in the collision.

Soft tyres

On the opening day of Ms Kearney’s trial in Naas Circuit Criminal Court, prosecuting counsel Dan Boland said it was the State’s case that two tyres on the Polo were not inflated to the correct level and a heavy load in the car had led to it veering into the wrong lane.

A witness to the crash, Tracy Norton, gave evidence of travelling behind the transporter van prior to the collision at around 9.45pm. She said she noted the van slowed and had begun pulling into the hard shoulder. She believed the van was letting her pass but then noticed the oncoming Polo.

“I saw the car swerving on the road. The car then straightened up,” she said.

When the van pulled back out onto the road, Ms Norton said, the Polo “shot across the road”.

Ms Norton immediately contacted the emergency services and ran to the car.

“[Ms Kearney] was screaming,” she said. “I tried to talk to her but she kept screaming.”

Ms Norton recounted checking the pulse of the passengers but could not find one.

Sgt Donal O’Sullivan from Athy Garda Station said he interviewed Ms Kearney about four months after the incident.

“She was not available for interview beforehand because her injuries were so severe,” he said.

Ice-skating trip

In her statement to gardaí, Ms Kearney recalled travelling to Kilkenny to go ice-skating with her friends on the day of the incident. Afterwards, the group had gone to McDonald’s before heading to Athy.

Ms Kearney told gardaí­ she had purchased her ’01 Volkswagen Polo in May or June 2014 from Done Deal. She said the ad said the car had an NCT until April 2015.

The defendant said when she inspected the car at a petrol station in Allenwood, Co Kildare prior to buying it she saw an NCT disc with the same details. In March 2015, after the accident, the defendant’s mother sought a replacement NCT as the original could not be found.

She rang the NCT office to be told the NCT had expired in May 2014.

“This information came as a shock and was devastating to me and my family,” she told gardaí.

Forensic collision investigator at Newbridge Garda Station Garda Rachel Murdiff said road and driving conditions were described as good and the accident had occurred on a relatively straight stretch of road.

Speed was not a factor in the collision.

In cross-examination, defence barrister Roderick O’Hanlon SC suggested the impact of raised cat’s eyes on the Polo’s tyres would have had an exaggerated effect on steering.

Garda Murdiff said she would expect to see marks on the road if the tyre had hit a cat’s eye. She had inspected the road and noticed no loose or jagged cat’s eyes.

The case continues in front of a jury of seven women and five men with presiding judge Eoin Garavan. It is expected to last a week.