Learner driver in court over cyclist death

A MARRIED woman out for an early-morning cycle was struck and killed by a learner driver who was overtaking a cattle truck, a court heard. Joseph Hanley, 26, of 5 Sycamore Drive, Bruff, yesterday pleaded not guilty at Limerick Circuit Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Carmel O’Brien, 49, at Uregare, Kilmallock, on August 17, 2007. 

Mrs O’Brien had gone out for her morning cycle earlier than usual, as she and her husband planned to attend a nephew’s wedding later that day. The accident happened at around 6.50am when the accused was on his way to work. Mr Hanley was overtaking a cattle lorry when he hit Mrs O’Brien who was cycling in the opposite direction.

The court was told that two doctors, Edmund and Marcella O’Callaghan, were out jogging and on going to the assistance of Mrs O’Brien could find no sign of life. Sgt William Harhen, now retired, said part of Mrs O’Brien’s bike was near her body and the remainder of the bike was stuck in nearby trees. He spoke with the accused at the scene. He said he was overtaking a cattle lorry when he crashed into a woman on a bike coming in the opposite direction. A breath test taken from the accused showed a zero level of alcohol.

Later on the day of the accident, the accused went to Bruff Garda Station where he gave a statement. Sgt Harhen said the accused stated he left home in Bruff at around 6.30am on the morning of the accident and it would take him one hour and a quarter to get to work. Three weeks previously, the accused bought a car and took out his first provisional licence about a week before that. The accused stated that he was getting driving lessons from his sister at the grounds of Bruff Rugby Club for a month before he got the car.

It was nearly bright when he left home and there was a lorry in front of him as he travelled at around 50kph. He went to overtake the lorry. After indicating, he pulled out across to the other side of the road. As he was level with the back wheels of the lorry he accelerated to get past when he saw the peak of a cap of a person travelling on the road. At that point he did not know if this person was a pedestrian or on a bike. He took his leg off the accelerator and put it on the brake. The car skidded and in a split second he could feel pieces of glass from the windscreen coming in on him. On going to the assistance of Mrs O’Brien the accused said he could not get a pulse. He rang the emergency services. The trial before seven men and five women continues.

Irish Examiner 20 Jan 2011

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