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Family of girl (3) killed in car crash left with 'a renewed sense of injustice' after inquest hearing

Estlin Wall was in a rear child seat in a car driven by her father at the time of the collision.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

THE FAMILY OF a three-year-old girl killed in a road collision said they were left “with a renewed sense of injustice” after an inquest heard evidence of a “crazy” manoeuvre in an unroadworthy vehicle by a truck driver who caused the crash.

Several eyewitnesses told an inquest at Dublin Coroner’s Court into the death of Estlin Wall that the truck driver, Senan O’Flaherty, had tried a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre on the N85 between Ennis and Ennistymon. Co Clare.

The inquest also heard evidence that his truck was “dangerously defective”.

Estlin of Ard Donagh, Ennistymon, Co Clare, was in a rear child seat in a car driven by her father, Vincent, at the time of the collision which occurred near Inagh, Co Clare on 15 March 2017.

She died three days later from her injuries at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.

In January, the Court of Appeal upheld an appeal by the DPP that a €1,500 fine imposed on the truck driver by Ennis District Court after convictions for careless driving causing death and careless driving causing bodily harm was unduly lenient.

Instead, the Court of Appeal imposed a 16-month sentence on O’Flaherty (64) of Lower Gowerhass, Cooraclare, Co Clare, but suspended the full term for a period of two years.

The court also upheld the €1,500 fine and a four-year driving ban.

The inquest heard that the collision occurred after O’Flaherty had attempted to overtake a bus on an uphill section of road approaching a bend as Wall was driving from the opposite direction.

Although Wall’s car did not strike the truck, it spun out of control after going on a grass verge in an evasive manoeuvre and hit an oncoming vehicle behind the truck.

Morgan Lahiffe, whose vehicle was struck by Wall’s car, said he immediately thought “bad move” when the truck started to overtake the bus.

Lahiffe said the truck driver appeared to struggle to keep control of his vehicle as he pulled out of the overtaking manoeuvre.

Another eyewitness, Geraldine Kilbane, who was also travelling behind the truck said she would never overtake at such a location.

“I said to myself ‘what is he doing? Where is he going as there was a car coming down the hill,” she recalled.

In a written statement, O’Flaherty claimed the bus driver had been going very slow and slowing down to 10mph on bends which led him to think there was something wrong with the bus.

O’Flaherty, who did not attend the inquest due to medical reasons, denied that he had ever tried to overtake the bus as he was carrying a heavy load of boulders from a nearby quarry but he admitted pulling out to see if it was safe to overtake several times.

The driver, who did not see the collision, claimed he had seen the bus move out into the other lane and had followed suit because he thought there might be some obstacle on the road.

The driver of the bus, Martin Hurley, denied that he had moved into the oncoming lane at any stage.

Hurley, who was also unaware of the collision until contacted by gardaí, said he was aware the truck behind him had been trying to overtake him.

“I thought it was crazy,” he recalled.

Garda Brendan Condon, a vehicle inspector, said an examination of O’Flaherty’s tipper truck had shown it was dangerously defective due to the poor condition of its tyres, steering and brakes.

Garda Condon said a tachograph had shown that the truck driver had been driving erratically and constantly speeding up and braking.

He claimed O’Flaherty’s speed was always between 40 and 60km/h which did not support the truck driver’s claims about slowing down for the bus.

Asked about the location of the collision, Garda Condon replied: “That’s not a road where you would overtake with a truck.”

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Sergeant Seamus O’Regan, a forensic collision expert, said there was no evidence that Wall had been speeding.

Detective Garda Ruth O’Sullivan said no witnesses had provided evidence to support O’Flaherty’s claim about the bus moving out.

Verdict of death

Medical evidence was heard that Estlin suffered multiple fractures and a cardiac arrest at the scene of the crash before being airlifted to hospital.

An autopsy found she had died as a result of severe brain injury caused by the collision.

The inquest also heard that Estlin’s organs, which had been donated by her parents, were successfully transplanted to other patients.

The coroner, Dr Crona Gallagher, recorded a verdict of death in accordance with associated court proceedings of death due to careless driving.

Speaking after the inquest, Estlin’s mother, Amy Wall, said the evidence had provided “a renewed sense of injustice from the criminal proceedings.”

However, she said the family had heard all the information it had expected to hear two years earlier during a trial which did not go ahead due to a last minute guilty plea

Vincent Wall, who has no recollection of the collision in which he suffered severe brain injury, also welcomed the outcome of the inquest.

“Clear evidence and description of what happened that morning is very important to me,” he observed.

About the author:

Seán McCárthaigh

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