Driver of car in which four young women died acquitted of all charges

Judge calls crash a ‘most appalling tragedy’

The jury took a little over 20 minutes to acquit  23-year-old Dayna Kearney of the charges against her. Photograph: Collins

The jury took a little over 20 minutes to acquit 23-year-old Dayna Kearney of the charges against her. Photograph: Collins

 

Dayna Kearney, the driver of the car which crashed near Athy in January 2015 killing her four passengers, has been acquitted by a jury of dangerous driving causing death.

The Circuit Criminal Court jury also acquitted Ms Kearney of knowingly driving a defective vehicle.

After a two and a half day trial, the jury took a little over 20 minutes to return two unanimous not guilty verdicts on the 23-year-old Ms Kearney.

She had been driving an 01 registration Volkswagen Polo that veered out of control into wrong lane on the N78 colliding head on with a van.

Car passengers Aisling Middleton (19) from Athy and Gemma Nolan (19), Charmaine Carroll (20), and Niamh Doyle (19), all from Carlow, and Aisling Middleton (19) from Athy, died almost instantly in the collision.

Ms Kearney wiped tears from her eyes as the verdicts were read out; members of the victims’ families who has filled the court for the case were also visibly upset.

After the verdict, Judge Eoin Garavan said Ms Kearney had come to court as not guilty and nothing had changed as she now left. He described the case as the “most appalling and sad tragedy” and paid tribute to Aisling Middleton, Germaine Carroll, Gemma Nolan and Niamh Doyle, their family and friends.

“For four young people in the prime of their lives to lose their lives on a good road on a good evening, it puts tragedy upon tragedy. Their lives can never be replaced,” he said.

Judge Garavan said Ms Kearney would live with the consequences of the accident for the rest of her life. He said it appeared the collision had occurred because of uninflated or under inflated tyres

“To think something quite small, easily overlooked could cause such devastation, it’s such a salutatory lesson for us all.”

Judge Garavan thanked the jury for their service and said he appreciated it was an emotionally difficult trial. He excused them from jury service for five years.

Defending solicitor Frank Taaffe spoke on behalf of Dayna Kearney at Naas Courthouse after the verdicts.

Mr Taaffe said his client’s reaction was of relief but was “tinged with great sadness for having lost four of her dear friends and great sadness for the loss incurred by their families”.

He said Ms Kearney had undergone counselling for the last three and a half years because of the tragic accident.

“It has been a tremendous ordeal,” he said. “She is relieved but still shattered by events three and a half years ago.”

Mr Taaffe said her client expressed her heartfelt sorrow to the families.

“They were all her friends who died in that tragic accident. She feels their loss and she understands the great loss that has been suffered by those families.”

The victims’ families were visibly upset as they left the courthouse quickly.