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Young woman found not guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of four friends

Car passengers Gemma Nolan, Charmaine Carroll, Niamh Doyle, and Aisling Middleton died almost instantly in the collision.

Clockwise from top left: Niamh Doyle, Gemma Nolan, Aisling Middleton and Chermaine Carroll.
Clockwise from top left: Niamh Doyle, Gemma Nolan, Aisling Middleton and Chermaine Carroll.

A CARLOW WOMAN has been found not guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of her four friends.

A jury took little over 20 minutes in deliberation before reaching the decision this afternoon at Naas Circuit Court today.

They returned unanimous not guilty verdicts for 23-year-old Dayna Kearney of Crossneen, Carlow who was charged with dangerous driving causing death and driving a defective vehicle at Burton, Kildare on the night of 6 January 2015.

Kearney had been driving a Volkswagen Polo that veered out of control into the wrong lane on the N78 colliding head-on with a van.

Car passengers Gemma Nolan (19), Charmaine Carroll (20), and Niamh Doyle (19), all from Carlow, and Aisling Middleton (19) from Athy, died almost instantly in the collision.

Kearney wiped tears from her eyes as the verdicts were read out while members of the victims’ families were visibly upset.

After the verdict, Judge Eoin Garavan said Kearney had come to court as not guilty and nothing had changed as she now left.

He described the case as the “most appalling and sad tragedy” and paid tribute to Aisling Middleton, Germaine Carroll, Gemma Nolan and Niamh Doyle, their family and friends.

“For four young people in the prime of their lives to lose their lives on a good road on a good evening, it puts tragedy upon tragedy. Their lives can never be replaced.”

Judge Garavan said Kearney would live with the consequences of the accident for the rest of her life.

Judge Garavan said it appeared the collision had occurred because of uninflated or under-inflated tyres

“To think something quite small, easily overlooked could cause such devastation, it’s such a salutary lesson for us all.”

Judge Garavan thanked the jury for their service and said he appreciated it was an emotionally difficult trial. He excused them from jury service for five years.

Defending solicitor Frank Taaffe spoke on behalf of Dayna Kearney at Naas Courthouse after the verdicts.

Taaffe said his client’s reaction was of relief but was “tinged with great sadness for having lost four of her dear friends and great sadness for the loss incurred by their families”.

He said Kearney had undergone counselling for the last three and a half years because of the tragic accident.

“It has been a tremendous ordeal,” he said. “She is relieved but still shattered by events three and a half years ago.”

Taaffe said his client expressed her heartfelt sorrow to the families.

“They were all her friends who died in that tragic accident. She feels their loss and she understands the great loss that has been suffered by those families.”

The victims’ families were visibly upset as they left the courthouse quickly.

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