herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

'There was screaming, then Ciaran went silent and I knew he was dead'

tragedy

Ciaran Treacy with his mother
Ciaran Treacy with his mother

A mum whose four-year-old son's death has left her "whole life shattered" said she will "never forgive" the drunk driver who hit their car.

Gillian Treacy's heart- wrenching words about the loss of her little boy Ciaran were read out at the sentencing hearing of Finbarr O'Rourke, the man responsible for his death.

Ms Treacy was returning home to Portarlington, Co Laois, with her sons Ciaran and Sean, on April 17, 2014, after spending a day with their grandparents.

The court heard O'Rourke (40) had consumed eight to 10 pints that day before getting behind the wheel of his car and colliding head-on with the young family's vehicle.

Ms Treacy suffered horrific injuries and attended her son's funeral in a hospital trolley. She may still - 10 surgeries later - need to have part of her leg amputated.

A devastating victim impact statement signed by Ciaran's parents Gillian and Ronan was read out by a lawyer at the Circuit Court in Portlaoise yesterday.

Ms Treacy said the collision left her "crushed and trapped" in the car as her sons screamed, waiting for "what felt like an eternity" for help.

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"All of a sudden Ciaran became silent... I then feared the worst... I knew he had been badly injured or the unthinkable - dead."

The court heard that emergency services arrived as did her husband Ronan with her daughter Caoimhe. While her sons were brought to hospital it took an hour for Ms Treacy to be cut from the car.

The boys were taken to Portlaoise Hospital, while their mother was taken to hospital in Tullamore.

Ms Treacy said that staff there couldn't tell her about Ciaran's death because her condition was so critical.

Ronan visited her after surgery.

"The only way I could communicate was to make the letter 'C' with my finger on the sheet," Ms Treacy explained.

"It was then that Ronan confirmed what I already knew in my heart that Ciaran didn't make it.

"My whole life was shattered and my heart was broken when my worst nightmare had been confirmed."

She said that despite her many injuries, the worst "was the pain which came from my broken heart".

The statement said the funeral was "a day that no parent should have to endure".

Ms Treacy said she remembered seeing O'Rourke "slumped over the wheel" moments before the crash.

"He then got out of his car and ran... failing to get medical assistance for us, this I will never forgive him for."

The statement said last Christmas was "filled with despair" and that Ciaran's fifth birthday was "celebrated for him but without him, surrounded by our families, heartbroken watching Sean and Caoimhe blow out his candles".

"Some of my darkest moments have been at night when the children slept, trying to come to terms with everything, from the trauma of the crash, the nightmares, the feeling of being on fire and the screams of my children," Ms Treacy said.

The trained beauty therapist said she could not return to work due to her injuries and explained how the family had to put her salon's premises up for sale due to financial pressure.

"Family life will never be the same [without Ciaran]," the statement continued.

"We will always wonder how life would have been.

"He never got the chance to start school, make his Communion, Confirmation, go to college, get married or have children.

"These are the things that will break our hearts even more knowing he did not get to live his life... Again, this I will never forgive Finbarr O'Rourke for.

"We carry on knowing we have an angel in heaven watching over us.

Devastated

"We thank God for four precious years with him but grieve for the life he was denied by the actions of Finbarr O'Rourke, a drunk driver who shattered and devastated our family."

Judge Keenan Johnson said the statement should be compulsory reading for anyone thinking of drink-driving.

O'Rourke, of Laurel Drive, Portlaoise, admitted dangerous driving causing the death.

The separated father of two took to the stand to apologise. "I would give my life, I never went out to hurt anybody that day," he said.

Conor Devally SC said O'Rourke had entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity, has no previous convictions and is now attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

Judge Johnson described the matter as "clearly a case that will carry a custodial sentence".

Sentencing is expected to be finalised at a hearing on Tuesday.

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