herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

'I awake to a nightmare every day', says dad in plea for new road laws

Noel Clancy arriving at court
Noel Clancy arriving at court

A man who lost his wife and autistic daughter in a horrific road tragedy has demanded a Government crackdown on learner motorists who drive unaccompanied by a fully qualified driver.

Father-of-three Noel Clancy lost his wife, Geraldine (58), and daughter, Louise (22), when they both drowned in a flooded ditch after their car was struck by a learner driver, who had just lost control of her vehicle.

Susan Gleeson (21) of Kilworth, Co Cork wept as she avoided jail and received a three-year suspended sentence for dangerous driving causing the death of the mother and daughter on December 22, 2015.

She was also banned from driving for 15 years as Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Geraldine and Louise Clancy both drowned after their car, having been struck by Ms Gleeson's vehicle, overturned into a flooded ditch in north Cork.

Ms Gleeson had failed to yield at a blind junction on the R666 and, in attempting to take the turn, lost control of her vehicle and struck Mrs Clancy's car as it was passing.

In a freak series of coincidences, Mrs Clancy's car went through a portion of the ditch where a wall had previously collapsed - and then entered the most heavily flooded section of a dyke.

Tragically, the doors of her car were wedged tightly closed after it landed upside down in the dyke whose width exactly matched that of her vehicle.

A passing motorist, off-duty Defence Forces soldier Sean O'Grady, attempted to prise open the doors to save the trapped women who could be heard screaming.

He opened the passenger's door a sufficient amount to get his arm inside - and felt his hand being squeezed by Louise Clancy.

"He held her arm," Sgt John McNamara said.

"She (Louise) squeezed his hand for a short time and then became lifeless."

Susan Gleeson (21) wept as she avoided jail and received a three-year suspended sentence for dangerous driving causing the death of the mother and daughter on December 22, 2015.
Susan Gleeson (21) wept as she avoided jail and received a three-year suspended sentence for dangerous driving causing the death of the mother and daughter on December 22, 2015.

Sgt McNamara said Ms Gleeson immediately told Gardai at the scene she misjudged the junction and had failed to yield.

Legislation

Mr Clancy's learner driver plea was endorsed by road safety group, PARC, founded by Susan Gray whose husband, Stephen, died in a collision with an unaccompanied learner driver.

"It is important to reflect on the question, on any given day, how many learner drivers are on the roads of Ireland unaccompanied?" Mr Clancy said.

"I am calling on the minister to implement legislation so that allowing one's car to be driven by an unaccompanied learner driver is an offence and would make both car owner and driver equally accountable in law."

In a harrowing Victim Impact Statement, Mr Clancy said: "I was married to Geraldine for 10,705 days and I would be happy to trade a lot of those for just one minute to say goodbye."

He said he wept as he knelt between the coffins of his wife and daughter at the funeral.

"I kissed her (Geraldine's) lips - (they were) stone cold. I thanked her for the life she shared with me and I asked her to mind Louise," he said.

"Most people wake from a nightmare in the morning. But I wake every day to a nightmare - a real nightmare.

"That day was the worst day in the history of the world from my point of view.

"People tell me there is a road ahead. But I cannot see it. People tell me the sun will shine again. But I don't believe it," he added.

Sobbing, Ms Gleeson said: "There isn't a day that I don't think about it and the heartache I have caused them. There are no words to say how sorry I am."

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