Unaccompanied learner driver texting at time of fatal collision

Eric Dunne to be sentenced next week over death of schoolgirl on road in Co Offaly

An unaccompanied learner driver was using his mobile phone when his car struck and killed a schoolgirl while she was walking on a road in Co Offaly, Tullamore Circuit Criminal Court has heard.

An unaccompanied learner driver was using his mobile phone when his car struck and killed a schoolgirl while she was walking on a road in Co Offaly, Tullamore Circuit Criminal Court has heard.

 

An unaccompanied learner driver was using his mobile phone when his car struck and killed a schoolgirl while she was walking on a road in Co Offaly, Tullamore Circuit Criminal Court has heard.

Eric Dunne (25), of Bellair, Ballycumber, Co Offaly, pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving causing the death of the 14-year-old on March 20th last at Erry, Clara.

The victim cannot be named following a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal, which ruled a deceased child who is a victim of crime cannot be identified under the Children’s Act .

Sgt Simon Murphy said Dunne could not remember anything about the incident when arrested but accepted that phone records showed he had been using his mobile to text at the time.

“If I could take her place I would. I’m so sorry. I wish it was me,” he told gardaí.

In a victim impact statement, the girl’s aunt said her brother, the girl’s father, had been in constant pain since the incident which she believed was the result of grief. “His heartbreak is physical. He wants his daughter back – his world.”

The victim was described as a “chatty, sometimes precocious” teenager who loved singing, dancing, film and fashion.

She had been out walking with her best friend taking photos of a sunset on the Clara-Ballycumber road when she was struck by a Hyuudai Santa Fe 4x4 driven by Dunne at around 7.35pm. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Shoes and socks

The victim’s best friend told gardaí­that she noticed a vehicle with full lights on coming towards them. She stepped in from the road as it was pretty close to them and moments later noticed shoes and socks on the road before finding her friend in a ditch.

In a victim impact statement, the girl said she missed her best friend every day and that her school work has suffered since the incident. “She’s my guardian angel in heaven but I want my best friend here with me.”

The court heard Dunne turned around his vehicle after realising that he might have hit something. Other witnesses who arrived at the scene said Dunne appeared traumatised and was not making sense. He was later treated for shock at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore.

A forensic collision report could not determine what speed Dunne, who had failed his driving test on three occasions, was travelling at at the time. Dunne passed a breath test taken at the scene.

In a statement read on Dunne’s behalf by Desmond Dockery SC, the defendant apologised to the girl’s family. He said he had not seen the girl on the road and acknowledged she would still be alive “but for my stupidity”.

Judge Keenan Johnson adjourned sentencing until Tuesday.