A 49-year-old truck driver has been banned from driving for six years after he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of a deaf woman whom he knocked down while reversing the wrong way down a street in Cork city centre.
Fortune Chigumira of An Caíreál, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Maeve Murphy (56) at Smith Street in Cork city centre on February 10th 2020.
Garda Richard O'Sullivan told the court that Chigumira was on his first day driving for a courier firm and was due to make his last delivery of the day at around 3.40pm when he decided to reverse down Smith Street which links the South Mall and Oliver Plunkett Street.
Smith Street was a one way street but Chigumira reversed down it the wrong way at a speed of just under 8kp/h and had gone down some 77 metres when he struck Ms Murphy, who was deaf from birth and never heard the truck behind her when she stepped off the footpath onto the roadway.
Ms Murphy, from Cathedral Road in Cork, suffered severe multiple injuries after being struck by the truck and Chigumira rang for the emergency services and remained at the scene until she was taken to hospital where she died later from her injuries, the court heard.
Garda O’Sullivan said that Chigumira was driving at just 7.48kp/h or walking speed at the time of the collision and was hugely upset over the accident. He had been very co-operative with gardaí and accepted full responsibility for the fatal collision.
Chigumira, a native of Zimbabwe who had come to Ireland over 20 years ago and worked as diesel mechanic on trucks and buses as well as as a driver, had no previous convictions, save for one for driving without insurance in 2003, he said.
Ms Murphy’s family submitted a Victim Impact Statement in which her sister, Finola O’Farrell, told of how much the family missed her as she was the youngest of five siblings and, as she had never married or had children, was “the central figure who joined all our family together”.
“Her death was an incredible shock to everyone and has had a devastating impact on our wider family. She left work that day, full of life, to walk the same way she always did up town and then perhaps to the gym and home, not knowing what lay ahead of her.
“The manner in which she died has been of considerable heartache to everyone - she was so young and had so much of her life ahead of her - we will never forget the moment we heard the tragic news,” said Ms O’Farrell.
Ms O’Farrell said her sister’s death was not just painful in terms of her family no longer being able to spend time with her but it had also resulted in she and her siblings selling the family home where her sister had lived, which broke a connection going back generations.
“Maeve’s life has been taken from her so swiftly and she will miss out on everything, watching her nieces and nephews grow and us, as a family, never having the opportunity to tell her how much we love her and how much we miss her every day,” she said.
Defence barrister, Emmet Boyle BL, pleaded for leniency, pointing out that neither speed nor drink were factors in the collision and his client had co-operated with investigating gardaí. He had been truthful at all times, it was said, and deeply remorseful over what had happened.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said he accepted that Chigumira was a hard-working man who had co-operated fully with investigating gardaí and had accepted his responsibility for causing the fatal collision and he had no doubt that Chigumira’s remorse was genuine.
However, he had reversed almost 80 metres the wrong way down a one way street and, notwithstanding the fact that there was beeper operating when reversing the truck, that constituted a level of recklessness which indicated the driving involved was well below the standard expected.
Judge Ó Donnabháin noted how the tragedy had impacted on Ms Murphy’s family who didn’t fully realise just how much a support she was to them until she was gone and their loss as a result of her being taken from them was “incalculable”.
He said he believed the appropriate sentence was one of 18 months which he would suspend in its entirety and he disqualified Chigumira from driving for a period of six years which would be a serious penalty for him given his dependence on driving for work.