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The pain left behind after a hit-and-run: 'I wake in the mornings to face another day without him'

The Maher family tell their raw story, in their own words.

PastedImage-28312 Eugene Maher Source: Twitter

EUGENE MAHER WAS cycling from his favourite spot in Dollymount on a sunny evening on 30 June 2015 when his paths crossed with 26-year-old Christopher Coleman.

Coleman had numerous convictions for dangerous driving, had been banned from the road but was behind the wheel of a car carrying four of his friends.

He was spotted speeding down Clontarf road while one of his passengers hung out the window, making a gesture at a fellow road user. They then travelled down a bus lane on Clontarf road, five young men cheering and roaring.

Then screeching brakes, more screaming and too-soon after the sound of the impact.

The car had crashed into Eugene’s bike, knocking him down. As witnesses watched on, Coleman tried to stop the car with a handbrake turn but failed. The vehicle spun and spun.

He then drove off at speed.

Meanwhile, an ambulance was called and Eugene Maher – a 61-year-old local man – was brought to hospital.

However, his injuries were catastrophic and his family was called. Doctors could do no more for him.

Yesterday, his wife, son and daughter handed in powerful victim impact statements to a sentencing hearing for Coleman of Reuben Street, Dublin who pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death.

Here is their story – and the impact of dangerous driving – in their own words.

Lisa Maher, daughter of Eugene Maher 

My new little baby boy is due to be born, on the 30 June 2016, one year exactly to day of his death. Coincidence ? Maybe! But knowing my Dad, he sent us all this special little gift…

“Imagine waking up one day. And it being the last day of your life as you know it. Completely and utterly.

Well I never thought that possible. But I’m living that scenario since the 30 June 2015, when my best friend, my hero, my dad was killed mercilessly, unnecessarily, callously.

No one deserves the end he was given. Especially not him. You see, he lived his life to give, to help, to bring out the best in others. He was unique beyond words.

He worked hard his whole life and was passionate about giving others a chance – some a second chance – at a better life. He judged no one, on how they looked or spoke or where they came from, he judged you on your drive and hunger for life. And if he saw any good in a person, he would go without to help them pursue a dream or ambition.

He brought out the very best in people, he cared about people. He was the most generous, selfless and giving person I have ever met. Mostly though, he lived for us. As a small family, we only have each other.

He did everything for us, he taught me to love unconditionally, to laugh often (and loud) and to live every single day like it’s your last.

Who knew that day, off on his cycle to his favourite spot in Dollymount, on the same route he took for the past 30 years, that that day would be his last? And the last day of my life as I knew it? Because without my dad, it’s like starting all over again, empty.

I had a very unique relationship and bond with him. Everyone said it and we knew it, we were like Del Boy and Rodney as he used to say, he would clench his fist and lovingly punch the air and say there is my ol’ buddy ol’ pal….

We were so alike, often I’d hear people say, ‘Well the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree Eugene! She is definitely yours no doubt about that.’

I turned to him for everything, he was there for every good time and bad. He made things right, he knew what to say and when. He was the life and soul of every aspect of my life.

I worked with my dad from the time I was 16. He was my mentor and my guide in life. One of the hardest parts for me is not being able to pick up the phone, hear his voice, tell him about my day, ask for help, or tell him about my little boys’ worldly toddler adventures.

I feel like a part of me died with him that night. And I’m lost trying to piece my life back together ever since.

My boys. They injected a whole new lease of life into him when they were born. I sent him daily photo updates and videos of the funny moments. He idolised them, and they him. Granda was their hero, no one else mattered when he was around.

For a year almost I have – every night at bedtime – had to explain that he was given very special angel wings and lives high in the sky. His job is to take care of all of us from above and one day we will all see him again.

Imagine trying to explain this to a three- and two-year old. We looked out the window one night to find him. I told him he was the brightest star in the sky. The moon was full that particular night and they decided he was in the moon, their Granda. They couldn’t wait to tell everyone.

And every night, the moon shines brightly into their bedroom, they sing him a song, blow him a kiss and tell them how much they miss him and love him. It’s their peaceful place, it gives them comfort and relieves some pain they don’t know they feel, but I do.

It works in the moment. They close their eyes and know to dream of him. But as they grow older, the persistence of where he is and why he isn’t coming back grows stronger and my job gets harder.

How do you explain to two babies that their Granda was robbed of his life, by a coward – a callous, evil, calculated, below-grade, supposed human being, who lives amongst us, walks the streets every day and, since that moment, has wrecked a family, torn apart lives, stolen a precious life and left behind a string of misery? I live with this every single day.

And nothing, no jail time or remorse will ever change that. My dad died for nothing. Left for dead at the side of a road. No goodbyes, no explanation.

I’m haunted by the scenes in the hospital that night. I screamed in panic, I was inconsolable when I heard those words: “We are very sorry there is nothing we can do.”

I have nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks almost daily. I see that doctors face, I feel the tension in that room… I just wanted my dad, I begged the doctors to save him, I pleaded with them until I passed out, I cried in the policeman’s arms when I caught a glimpse of him being rushed from A&E for a brain scan. Covered in blood and unconscious.

We were put through an absolute living hell in the days that followed. I had just watched my Dad die. Unless you have been there, you can never comprehend how that feels: the helplessness. It changes your whole perspective on life. I just wanted to die with him right here in his arms. I wanted it to be me and take all that pain away from him. He didn’t deserve this. I felt a pain like I had never ever felt before. I was broken.

I never left that room. I’m still there. I’m trapped there every day. It haunts me to see him take his last breath. Eyes closed, unconscious, bloody, covered in bandages, lifeless…

A strong, healthy, extremely fit man.

Only months before at a medical, the doctor in the very hospital he died told him he was the healthiest 62-year-old he had ever seen. He had the body and physique of a 50-year-old!

And anyone who knew him would tell you he had the energy of a 30-year-old, and the ambition and drive of a cart horse. He was young at heart, he took care of himself and his body. He was handsome, courageous and he was unstoppable. He was a powerhouse.

We were told that he didn’t stand a chance from the moment of impact.

His injuries were catastrophic.

Imagine the impact it would take to kill a man of this stature, to finally stop, the unstoppable. That, also haunts me.

From early the next morning, the house was packed with people, police and journalists. A manhunt was underway for the vile, sinister driver of the car. I honestly thought whoever did it would have handed themselves in by this time. But it took six long, agonising, painful days.

To be told your Dad’s body cannot be released until the driver is found and that he had a right to have an independent autopsy performed on arrest if he so requested.

The anger…  you do not have any idea of how much anger a person can behold until you have been here.

Dad lay on a slab in a morgue while this person roamed free, for six agonising days. We were told it could be weeks or even months. He had a control over us, a leash around our necks. He killed my Dad, he controlled when my Dad could be released and he had a right to invade my Dad’s body again if he so wished when arrested.

We had been plucked from real life and slammed into a vortex of evil and heartache. We couldn’t bring Dad home or plan his funeral or think or eat or sleep or breath.

No information on what happened, how it happened, who did it… Nothing. The lights of our life switched off in the blink of an eye.

The impact this has on a person cannot be comprehended by anyone unless you have been in that position. No one will ever know the torment we suffer daily.

I lost my dad. My best friend. I live with the confusion of what happened, the anger of how it happened, the trauma of watching him die, the pain and shock of losing my Daddy, the stress of my babies’ loss, the year of waiting for answers, the daily struggle of grief, the nightmares, anxiety, the tears.

Seeing my Mam and brother and family suffer the same. The what ifs. The anger at a person for being so stupid, ignorant and cruel. The not knowing what the future holds, how we will cope.

We can never ever move on from this. One action changed a whole family’s existence forever.

At least I can sleep at night, without the real life visual, of the impact of a six-foot powerhouse, smashing your windscreen, by your own fault, and watching his lifeless body slumped on a roadside through a rearview mirror, left like an animal to die, and drive off at speed, hide for six days like a coward, and walk freely for a year until brought to some sort of justice.

I don’t care how evil you are, that haunts you, repeatedly, and grows bigger, larger, more infectious, like a fungus in your being, as the years pass, getting worse and worse, until the day indeed that person takes his final breath in this world. That’s a life sentence in itself.

Maher of the sword. Dad was proud of this title. He taught us to be fighters, survivors, warriors. Only the strong survive, he would fight forward with honour and dignity, and this I know he would want for us too.

Closure will help, time will heal.

My new little baby boy is due to be born, on the 30 June 2016, one year exactly to day of his death. Coincidence ? Maybe! But knowing my Dad, he sent us all this special little gift, to give us all some joy, life, happiness, belief at a time of year that will forever more ring through as a catalyst that changed a whole family of lives, forever.

Born in Fairview, he died in Fairview. My dad, my hero, nothing will bring him back but our memories will keep him alive, always and no one can take that away from us.”

Stephen Maher, Eugene Maher’s son

He dreamed of bringing them to football and watching them grow. Sometimes I have to leave the room when either of them look at picture of my Dad and tell me how much the miss him. 

“The pain the last year has brought to myself, my family and close friends is difficult to put into words.

I wake up every morning with a pain in between my eyes. A pain that takes 20 minutes to clear. A pain so bad sometimes I don’t want to leave my room.

I know when I do get up, I won’t be greeted by my Dad in the morning with that infectious laugh and smile I loved all my life.

Death is inevitable. We will all experience the death of a loved one. Not everyone though will experience the loss of a loved one in such tragic circumstances as being left for dead on a busy road.

When I do get up, flashbacks occur of the events from the 30 June 2015. Just before my Dad went on his last cycle, we spent some time having lunch and talking about life and the future. It is a day I will never forgot – the most amazing of summer days – eating his favourite food, talking and laughing.

Then happiness turned to horror. We as a family do not know anything about my Dad’s last moments. We have had to spend a year piecing the horrific event together without being allowed know what happened due to the evil individual’s cowardly actions.

Rushing to a hospital with worry not thinking it would be this bad.

(For one moment I would like anyone hearing this statement to close their eyes and imagine…)

A policeman telling you that your Dad was hit by a car and it drove off, leaving the scene, then three doctors stand in front you and tell you your Dad is not going to make it… that his injuries are too severe and he doesn’t have much time left. Then to be escorted to ICU and to stand around the hospital bed saying goodbye to such a caring and generous man.

That is what I see every morning. That moment will never leave me.

Now try picture my nephews asking why Granda is not around anymore. He adored them. I remember so fondly when the bell would ring and the door opened, immediately they would run in and straight to Granda.

He dreamed of bringing them to football and watching them grow. Sometimes I have to leave the room when either of them look at picture of my Dad and tell me how much the miss him.

How do you explain to little children that not everyone is like their Granda – caring, generous and honest?

Some individuals don’t care if people are hurt and don’t want to help someone if they need it. As they grow older they will learn in life that some people run and hide – not caring about the consequences – just themselves.

Along with dealing with the death of my Dad, we as a family endured a torturous six days before finally being able to bring him home. My Dad saw the best in everyone and would try help anyone he could. He was always there to listen, share advice and, most importantly, he would make you smile and laugh no matter what the topic of conversation.

The world has lost somebody who cared for everyone and would do anything to help someone if they needed it. My Dad always said with every negative there always is a positive. I find it hard to find positives from this vile act of evilness.

But maybe one positive thing is society now knows who the cowards and evil people are.”

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Marie Maher, wife of Eugene Maher

He was my best friend, my soul mate and husband of 37 years and my partner of 43 years. 

“Is there a prescription for heartache? Because my heart is broken. The pain of loss is terrible.

On 30 June 2015 on a glorious sunny evening my life changed forever.

Eugene went out for a cycle, took his usual route to Dollymount and back home. Except he didn’t come home.

He was struck by a car as he crossed at the lights and the driver didn’t bother to stop and left Eugene fighting for his life on the road.

This was so unnecessary and avoidable.

I simply couldn’t believe it had happened.

I was numb with shock and disbelief when I was told by the doctors there was nothing they could do to save his life.

I sat by his bedside and thought, ‘How could this be happening to such a good man who lived for his family and did so much good in the world always looking out for others?’

I told him how much I loved him and held his hand and tried to comfort him in his last few minutes, hoping he could hear me and then he was gone.

My life as I knew it would never be the same again.

I never slept a wink that night and many nights after that and have never had a full night’s sleep since.

I will never forget the days waiting for his body to be released – to us an endless nightmare.

I was sick to the pit of my stomach at the thought of it all.

When the driver decided to come forward six days later, Eugene’s body was returned to us.

The memory of his coffin coming through the front door is etched in my mind forevermore. Sometimes I cannot breath with the memory of it.

I cried like a baby for my beautiful husband who was lying in a coffin.

Dead. Gone from this world. Part of me died with him that night.

The pain and grief this has caused to me and my family is indescribable.

The sleepless nights, the nightmares and the loneliness is overwhelming.

I miss his smile, his infectious laugh, his living presence.

My vision is choked by anxiety and panic. Life for me has lost its structure and its purpose.

Seeing his name on a Death Certificate seemed so unreal.

A mistake.

Eugene was an amazing – a positive larger than life, generous person who loved life.

He adored his children and was besotted with his beautiful grandsons.

He was my best friend, my soul mate and husband of 37 years and my partner of 43 years.

I wake in the mornings to face another day without him. I sit at the breakfast table on my own with his empty chair looking back at me, instead of his usual chats updating me on the news of the day.

The house is so lonely without him. I used to cook dinner every evening and chat and talk about events of the day and now I cook for myself and eat alone.

The silence in the house is deafening. He was a larger than life person who never stopped talking and telling jokes. Sometimes the jokes weren’t even funny but I still laughed as it was the way he’d tell them.

I miss him so much, the grief sometimes counteracts my ability to think. It’s very difficult to comprehend my life without him, even now after a year since his untimely, unnecessary death.

We had a business together but due to nature of his role in the business, he was irreplaceable so I decided to close the business. So it is a double loss for me. Loss of my husband and loss of the business and employment.

It’s hard to think of a different sort of life as I realise more and more that he is not coming back and my life will never be the same again.

More than 1,000 people turned up at his funeral and the house over the few days and the hundreds of cards and letters we received over the past few months from people telling how he had helped them in so many different ways is a testament to the kind of person he was.

An amazing, kind, fun-loving, positive and generous man.

Forgive and forget he would always say. But right now I cannot find it in my heart to forgive the person responsible for his death. Life is meaningless without him and there is no forgiveness in my soul for this person.”

With CCC reporters

Read: Driver who killed cyclist after breaking red light was already banned from driving

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