Family of student killed when motorist went through red light says apology is too late

‘It was so heart-wrenching to see my son’s life slowly slipping away’ says father of Jordan Murphy

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

The family of a young student killed when a motorist drove through red lights at a pedestrian crossing have claimed his apology and guilty plea to a charge of dangerous driving 27 months after the accident were “too little, too late”.

Jordan Murphy (19), a second year business student at the Athlone Institute of Technology died after being hit by a Ford Transit van driven by garage owner, John O’Shea, at Bonavalley, Athlone, Co Westmeath on September 11th, 2018.

O’Shea (66), of Ballyduff, Ballinahown, Athlone entered a guilty plea on a charge of dangerous driving causing death on Tuesday – the day before he was scheduled to face a jury trial in relation to the death of the Tullamore student.

At a sitting of the court on Friday, it emerged an earlier offer by O’Shea to plead guilty to the lesser charge of careless driving causing death had not been accepted by the DPP.

In a victim impact statement, the dead student’s father, Alan Murphy described how he had prayed that “our beautiful caring boy” had only suffered “a few broken bones” on learning his son had been involved in an accident.

“It is the day our lives changed forever,” said Mr Murphy.

On being informed by medical staff at the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore about his son’s serious condition, Mr Murphy said: “Our hearts had started to shatter. The cries from our family were deafening. Despair and disbelief filled the room.”

He added: “It was so heart-wrenching to see my son’s life slowly slipping away. I could not breathe. I felt I was the one who was going to die.”

He fought back tears as he recounted holding Jordan’s head in his hands as his son died. “Our worst nightmare had become a reality,” he said.

He said Jordan’s two younger brothers and sister had cried their eyes out at the death of their older brother and were still feeling his loss.

He described his late son as passionate about music and Liverpool football club as well as how his family would never get to see “the great teacher he would have become”.

Jordan’s mother, Siobhan, said the legal process and lack of remorse shown by O’Shea had added to their anxiety while his apology and guilty plea were “too little too late after 27 months”.

Ms Murphy said she was devastated by her son’s death and was off work for six months, while his girlfriend, Aoife, had the devastation of coming upon the scene of the accident.

The court heard the family had raised over €12,000 in Jordan’s memory for a counselling service in Tullamore.

In a letter read to the court, O’Shea expressed his sorrow for the events of what he described as “the darkest day of my life”.

He said he could understand their pain as he had lost his own mother in a fatal road accident and he prayed for Jordan and his family every day.

He said he was deeply sorry from the bottom of his heart, although he acknowledged it would provide little consolation.

Counsel for O’Shea, Kenneth Fogarty SC, described the incident as “an inadvertent momentary lapse of paying attention.”

Garda Eoghan O’Connor, a forensic collision investigator, estimated O’Shea was driving between 50 and 62km/h at the point of impact.

He said it was faster than the 50km/h speed limit for the area but was “not excessive”. It was bright and sunny and road conditions were dry.

Garda O’Connor said drivers coming from the same direction as the accused would have clear sight of the pedestrian crossing for 220m.

The court heard Mr Murphy’s body ended up on the ground 22m from the pedestrian crossing as a result of the impact.

Another garda witness, Seán Boland, said a truck driver who witnessed the incident confirmed O’Shea had driven through a red light, contrary to the accused’s claim the lights were green.

Judge Keenan Johnson became emotional as he said such cases were the hardest type to deal with.

Expressing sympathy to Jordan’s family, he said it was clear that he was “a very much loved man with huge potential”

He adjourned sentencing in the case until December 11th.