US doctor gets two-year suspended sentence for fatal crash in Cork

British woman died after driver bent over to pick up pen in footwell and hit another car

A US doctor has been given a two-year suspended jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of a British tourist in Cork.

Cedric Simpson (52) from Portland, Oregon, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Lynn Anderson (60) at the Skew Bridge in Tivoli in Cork city on June 19th, 2016.

At Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Simpson, who was attending a 12-week cookery course at Ballymaloe Cookery School, expressed his remorse and apologised to Ms Lynn's family for the crash.

“I am a doctor almost 30 years so I have dealt with deaths before but I have never been on this side of trauma before - I took an oath not to do harm and once simple lapse causes someone’s death.”

Garda Paul Cogan told how Simpson was driving a hired Kia when he bent down to retrieve a pen from the footwell of the car just as he was entering the Skew Bridge.

Simpson's car veered across the road and collided with an oncoming hired car being driven by Killian O'Neill, who was back home from New Zealand with his partner, Chloe Anderson and their one-year-old, Kian.

Ms Anderson's mother, Lynn Anderson had come over from Cornwall to see her grandson for the first time and she was a back seat passenger in the car.

Garda Cogan said Simpson’s car hit Mr O’Neill’s car and pushed it against a high kerb on the bridge.

Mr O’Neill, his partner and child were not seriously injured but Lynn Anderson suffered traumatic injuries.

Simpson, who suffered a fracture of his leg in the collision, identified himself to them as an emergency department doctor and tended to Ms Andersen along with a nurse who stopped.

Ms Anderson was taken to Cork University Hospital where she died at about 7pm , said Garda Cogan.

Garda Cogan said Simpson made a voluntary statement that night in the hospital and the following day at Midleton Garda station where he revealed he had been bending down to pick up a pen.

Both drivers were breathalysed after the collision and neither was found to have any alcohol in their system while both vehicles were found to be roadworthy prior to the collision, he said.

Speed was not a factor in the collision and gardaí accepted Simpson’s explanation he momentarily lost control of the car as he bent down to remove the pen because it was impeding his driving.

Garda Cogan said Simpson, who had no previous convictions of any kind, had co-operated fully with gardaí .

None of Ms Anderson’s three adult children, who live in the UK and New Zealand, attended the hearing but all three made victim impact statements which were read to the court by Garda Cogan.

Chloe Anderson said that “the senseless crash” which claimed her mother’s life had affected her badly and she now worried about travelling in a car and her loved ones being killed in a crash.

“Our baby turning one should have been an exciting milestone spent with all the family but instead we ended up in a living nightmare,” said Ms Anderson, who was a front seat passenger in the car.

“To go from laughing and singing to then watching our mum be given CPR on the side of the road and die in front of us is the most traumatic event I have ever experienced.

“The images of that afternoon will stay with me forever .... I feel so angry and helpless that our mum’s life was stolen,” she said, adding that she bore no ill-will towards Simpson.

Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said he accepted Simpson’s guilty plea had spared the Anderson family the trauma of a trial and that he had co-operated fully with gardaí and that his remorse was genuine.

All these were mitigating factors and he also accepted that Simpson had tried to assist Ms Anderson by performing CPR on her at the crash scene while waiting for the emergency services to arrive.

He accepted that alcohol and speed were not factors in the collision but it was clearly dangerous driving to bend down and pick up a pen on a treacherous bend when it did not know the road.

However he said he did not believe society would be best served by imposing a custodial sentence but he marked the severity of the offence by imposing a two-year term but suspended it in full.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times