herald

Friday 24 November 2017

'Never let L drivers out on their own', pleads dad who lost his wife and girl

Geraldine Clancy and her daughter Louise Ann
Geraldine Clancy and her daughter Louise Ann

A father whose wife and daughter died in a freak car crash less than 1km from their family farm is calling for new road safety regulations.

Noel Clancy was speaking as a Cork coroner's court returned verdicts of death by drowning.

His wife Geraldine (58) and daughter Louise (22) died on December 22, 2015, when their car ploughed into a flooded ditch in north Cork after it was hit by another vehicle at a blind junction on the R666.

Neighbour

The driver of the other car was their neighbour, Susan Gleeson (21).

She was banned from driving for 15 years and given a three-year suspended jail sentence at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in November when she admitted dangerous driving causing death.

At Mr Clancy's request, the Mallow inquest jury has urged Transport Minister Shane Ross to empower gardai to impound vehicles driven by unaccompanied learner drivers.

The jury also issued a recommendation via Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy that Cork Co Council repair a broken wall at the scene of the accident.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Clancy, who was one of the first on the scene of the accident, said: "We are living a life sentence of loss. There is no question about that.

"There isn't an hour, a minute or a second that we don't think about Geraldine and Louise.

"If ever there was an example of a case why the law requires learner permit holders to be accompanied at all times, this is it."

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

In a freak series of coincidences, Mrs Clancy's Ford passed through a section of the wall that had previously collapsed and entered the heavily flooded ditch.

Tragically, it landed upside down and became wedged in the gully, preventing the doors from being opened.

A passing motorist, off-duty soldier Sean O'Grady, tried to open the doors to save the two women, who could be heard screaming inside.

He opened the passenger's door enough to get his hand inside and held Louise's arm.

Lessons

"She squeezed his hand for a short time, and then become lifeless," Gda Sgt John McNamara told the court.

Ms Gleeson, a University of Limerick student, was on her way to a dental appointment and was driving unaccompanied on a provisional licence.

She had completed nine of her 12 driving lessons and had been driving for eight months.

The student told gardai her full concentration was not on the road. She denied that she was speeding but admitted she may have been driving too fast.

The inquest heard harrowing details of how other motorists and locals tried to help the mother and daughter.

"I never wanted for any of this to happen," said Ms Gleeson. "There isn't a day that I don't think about it and the heartache I have caused."

Tragically, one of the first to arrive on the scene soon after 11am was Mr Clancy, who did not recognise the Ford, nor his wife nor daughter when they were removed from the car.

The full horror of what had happened dawned on him only when he realised that the car was the identical make, model and colour as his own.

Louise, who had autism, had defied her condition to study at University College Cork.

She had arrived home only days before the tragedy from her Erasmus Scholarship placement at the University of Sussex to spend Christmas at home with her family.

She was a prolific writer and published numerous blogs on living and working with autism.

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