Father of children killed in crash tells of ‘worst day of my life’

Brian O’Shea says the law in Denmark ‘is what it is’ as fine imposed on driver

From left Saoirse, Conor and Soren O’Shea with their father Brian.

From left Saoirse, Conor and Soren O’Shea with their father Brian.


Brian O’Shea, the father of three children who died in two-car collision in Denmark this summer, has spoken about events before and after the crash.

Brothers Soren (11) and Conor O’Shea (3) and Saoirse (9) died after a car being driven by their mother, Maria, was hit by a Mitsubishi Grandis near Sindal, North Jutland, Denmark, in July of this year.

An investigation found Lesse Burholt had been speeding and he was later convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of the three children. He was fined 10,000 Danish kroner (€1,340) and had a three-year probationary period imposed on his driver’s licence.

Following the court case, the family spoke of their disappointment that the 39-year-old had not received a custodial sentence. Ms O’Shea said it was hard to say anything positive about the Danish legal system while her husband, Brian, said the sentence was “outrageous”.

Burholt was found to have been driving at a speed of 125kmh in an 80kmh zone.

This morning Mr O’Shea said: “The law is what it is, the judge can only put down what is asked for by the prosecution… In this particular situation it wasn’t possible for the prosecution to prove he was doing a higher speed [than 125kmh]- which we are pretty sure he was. The only thing they can prove is the actual impact speed.”

Mr O’Shea said a woman gave evidence in court that Burholt had driven past her before the crash at such speed that her car juddered.

The court also heard Burholt had texted 11 times on his mobile phone while driving.

The day after the crash Ms O’Shea was interviewed by police and was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Police initially believed Ms O’Shea had driven in front of Burholt while making a left turn.

“We went through a process then waiting for the crash report to come out to show that he [Burhol] was speeding. We said time and again that he was speeding,” Mr O’Shea told Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ radio this morning.

Mr O’Shea also said the family felt forced to investigate the case to counter press reports, including one in The Irish Times, which quoted a spokesman for the North Jutland police saying Burholt was not at fault for the crash.

Following the trial Danish authorities said the charge of involuntary manslaughter against Ms O’Shea will be dropped.

Mr O’Shea said his wife was driving her children to see friends on the day of the accident. There were works taking place on the main road so Ms O’Shea had to follow a diversion. Burholt’s vehicle collided with her hired Citroen Berlingo while she was making a left turn.

“She made that left turn after reviewing the road in front, there was nothing there, she turned and next thing she knew she was upside down in what was left of her car,” Mr O’Shea said.

“Once she realised what had happened she went looking for the children to assess them.

“Torben was found to be okay. She found Conor, she tried to resuscitate him and she kept going until her arms were getting tired. There was a nurse there, she asked the nurse to continue while she went looking for the other kids.”

Mr O’Shea continued: “I was called to the scene. I had been at home with her father. We had to go down to a local farmer to borrow a car to get to where the site of the accident was and came over a hill and I could see smoke where I know there shouldn’t be smoke and that was about 5km from the actual accident itself, so you could imagine how that felt. It was the worst day of my life.”

The O’Sheas have set up a children’s charity which can be found at www.3musketeers.net.au