Tourist gets suspended sentence over crash in which boy (3) died

American tourist Maria Goode (25) pleaded guilty to dangerous driving

The scene of the fatal crash in which toddler Eoin O’Neill died on May 5th.

The scene of the fatal crash in which toddler Eoin O’Neill died on May 5th.

 

An American tourist has been given a three-year suspended sentence and disqualified from driving in Ireland for 10 years after she pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing a crash in which a three-year-old boy was killed.

Maria Goode (25) of Endicott Avenue, Somerville, Massachusetts, had initially pleaded not guilty before Monaghan Circuit Court to the offence when her trial began last week . She changed her plea to guilty on the second day of the case. Judge John O’Hagan delivered the sentence this morning.

Ms Goode, a paralegal who had been working as a manager in a café, had been required to remain in Ireland until the case was heard.

Eoin O’Neill (3) was fatally injured on Monday, May 5th, when the car his mother Rose O’Neill was driving was involved in a two-car collision at Annamarron on the N2.

Ms O’Neill, of Cortaghart, Co Monaghan, was coming from the Ardee direction and travelling northbound towards Carrickmacross.

The prosecution claimed Ms Goode, who was travelling southbound on the other side of the road, attempted to overtake a lorry and the two cars collided near a grass verge close to the hard shoulder.

Sergeant Kenneth Coughlan told the court when he had arrived on the scene at about 6.45pm, shortly after the crash, both vehicles were in the grass verge at the hard shoulder of the northbound lane. There was no debris on the road itself.

Ms Goode, who had been in Ireland for five days visiting friends and family and was due to return home the following day, was driving a rented Citroen Berlingo and had overtaken a truck on a broken white line.

The court had earlier hear from local people who knew the road, however, that the broken white line quickly changed to a continuous white line at a dangerous point in the road where there was a slight bend and a hill.

When Ms Goode was faced with Ms O’Neill’s Nissan Tiida coming in the opposite direction, she had taken a decision to swerve to the right hand side of the road.

Unfortunately, the court heard, Ms O’Neill had swerved to her left and both cars collided in the hard shoulder. Ms O’Neill’s car had gone on fire after the impact. Eoin sustained fatal injuries and Ms O’Neill was seriously injured, with multiple fractures which kept her in hospital for up to eight weeks.

The court heard there was no evidence of inappropriate speed, of erratic driving on Ms Goode’s part before the crash, or of drink or drug use.

Using a crutch, Ms O’Neill took to the witness box to deliver her victim impact statement.

She broke down sobbing as she read her statement and her husband Derek took over from her.

In the statement, Ms O’Neill said Eoin had been the couple’s “miracle” and their light that kept them going. They had “struggled very hard” to have Eoin and he had brought them such joy and happiness.

“He was what we lived for and our lives revolved around him.”

Eoin liked listening to Daniel O’Donnell and One Direction and playing with his tractors. He had been the best child anyone could wish for.

The court had earlier heard that Ms O’Neill had suffered two miscarriages before Eoin. She said she had lost four babies, including the one she was carrying when the crash happened.

Ms O’Neill said she had not been able to face visiting Eoin’s grave or returning to the family home since the crash, where Eoin’s pictures were on the fridge.

Even though the funeral had been delayed, Ms O’Neill had not been able to say her last goodbye to her child due to the extent of her injuries and the fact she was still in Tallaght hospital.

The couple said they would never get over what had happened and would never stop missing Eoin.

Ms O’Neill said she wished “every minute of every day” that she had died in the crash as well because she would rather be with Eoin than be here. Ms O’Neill said she would also never again be the same physically because of her injuries.

The day the crash occurred had been their wedding anniversary.

Damien Colgan, counsel for Ms Goode, instructed by solicitor Gerry Jones, said she apologised to the family and had asked him to express her remorse.

The trial opened before Monaghan Circuit Court on October 8th but the jury was sent home on the second day after the accused changed her plea from not guilty to guilty.

Judge John O’Hagan, who heard several positive character statements about the accused, took a break of about 15 minutes to consider his sentence after an hour’s hearing this morning.

The judge said it was a “tragic and very emotional” case.

He said the offence of dangerous driving was a statutory one and not one which required proof of intent. Ms Goode had never driven in Ireland before and she was not aware of the hill or the bend on the road, although “maybe she ought to have been”, he said.

“To all intents and purposes, Ms Goode was travelling normally and doing nothing wrong.”

But the judge said he could not ignore the results and the “horrific” aftermath of the crash.

The injuries Ms O’Neill had suffered were also horrific and would be “life-affecting”.

Judge O’Hagan said a judge’s job was “not a simple one” and he was required to have regard to a number of factors, including the plea of guilty, the absence of previous convictions and the presence of remorse.

He also had to take account of the effects on the accused into the future. He had seen medical reports in relation to the accused and she had suffered from depression following the crash. It could also be said she had been “in an open prison” in Ireland since then as her passport had been taken from her.

The judge said he was a parent himself. It was a hard thing for him to say to the O’Neills, but it was real.

“It’s not for me to take revenge on Ms Goode for what’s happened to you,” he said. “It’s not my function and I will not do it.”

The judge said his view was that a custodial sentence was necessary in the case, but not necessarily one that would be served.

He imposed a three-year suspended jail term and disqualified Ms Goode from driving in Ireland for 10 years.

She was also ordered today to sign a bond to keep the peace for three years on her own recognisance of €500 and she took an oath in the witness box to that effect.

Ms Goode, who had been studying in the United States, had taken on loans of betweeen $40,000 and $50,000 but had lost her place after she had to remain in Ireland following the crash and was in financial difficulty as a result.

The court heard she had been doing voluntary work in a soup kitchen in Dublin one night a week since the accident.

Neither Ms Goode nor the O’Neill family had any comment to make following the case.