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Sunday 19 January 2020

Driver with MS jailed for killing French pedestrian in footpath crash horror

Rosemarie Gallagher leaves a previous hearing. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Rosemarie Gallagher leaves a previous hearing. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Victim Benjamin Renard
Gallagher’s wrecked convertible car. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

A woman who lost control of her convertible car and mounted a footpath, killing one pedestrian and seriously injuring three others, has been jailed for two years.

Rosemarie Gallagher's car glanced off a tree and crashed into a stone wall and railings before it hit Benjamin Renard (24) and three other men. All four were thrown into the air.

The men were walking home from work during rush hour on a summer evening in Dublin city centre.

Gallagher's car then hit a stone pillar at the entrance to a creche, causing it to flip over on to its side before it landed passenger side down and spun off the footpath into the road.

Gallagher (61), of Belville Lodge, Donnybrook, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one charge of dangerous driving causing death and three charges of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm on Adelaide Road, Dublin 2, on August 22, 2017. She has no previous convictions.

Mr Renard died 15 days later after his life support was withdrawn.

Unfit

He had suffered skull fractures and extensive bleeding which caused swelling of his brain.

The court heard the young Frenchman was on his way home from work as an accountant with LinkedIn.

Gallagher had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) 26 years earlier but was considered medically fit to drive. She appeared in court in a wheelchair as her condition has since deteriorated.

Gallagher had, however, failed to disclose to her GP an accident in Rathfarnham in June 2015 when she reversed her car into a vehicle waiting in line behind her to leave a car park.

Her car then continued to reverse and did not stop until it crashed into two parked cars.

After the fatal accident in 2017, Gallagher told a garda who met her in hospital that she suffered from MS and her leg had stiffened while driving. She was uninjured in the crash.

Mr Renard's mother, Sandrine Fleurbaix, read her victim impact statement with the assistance of an interpreter.

She said she had experienced "misery" since the death of her beloved son, her only child.

"My life was my son. Never will I have grandchildren to love or to spoil. My future is empty, my son was my life, without him I am nothing, the pain is too much to bear," Ms Fleurbaix said.

She described Mr Renard as a bright young man who loved to travel.

"I was very proud of him. Never again will my son say, 'Mam, I love you'. He was so close to me," she said.

"Mrs Gallagher is guilty of my son's death because she knew she was sick. My son would still be alive. I no longer live, I survive the loss of my son."

Mr Renard's father, Laurent Renard, said he had the "privilege and honour" of being his father for 24 years.

He described him as always smiling and kind and said he was passionate to discover the different cultures of the world.

He spoke of the fundraising activities that his son took part in, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

"The incident always wakes me up. I see the image of my son in a coma," Mr Renard said.

He suggested that Gallagher should not have given herself the right to drive, knowing she was sick.

"The incident could have been avoided," he said before he later added that he cannot accept the excuse from Gallagher.

He said she killed his son and he is no longer the man he was as a result of losing him.

The three other men injured in the crash, Pierce Kenny (31), Joseph Tynan (27) and James Moore (38), suffered various bone fractures.

Judge Martin Nolan described it as "a tragic and lamentable case" and said it was beyond dispute that Gallagher lost control of her car and caused the death of Mr Renard and serious injury to the three men.

Warned

He said it seemed to him from the evidence that Gallagher lost control by reason of her condition.

"She suffered some spasm that affected her legs and I can infer that she hit the accelerator and couldn't control the vehicle," Judge Nolan said.

He said Gallagher was "well warned of the characteristics of her condition", and noted that if she had reported the accident in 2015 to her doctor there would have been a question over whether she should been allowed to drive.

"It seems she must have known of her problems while driving as evidenced by her driving at Rathfarnham. It seems she should not have been driving. A doctor probably would not have certified her to drive," Judge Nolan said.

He said it was also clear that Gallagher wanted to live an independent life and was a woman of "extraordinary intelligence and industry".

"She has beaten the odds in terms of what she can and cannot do. She has a productive and professional life and is a generous and good-hearted person," Judge Nolan said, referring to Gallagher's work in sourcing temporary accommodation for homeless children.

He said there was no doubt that she was remorseful and ashamed of her actions, but added that her driving caused a death, which he said was "a particular tragedy" for Mr Renard's parents.

Judge Nolan said a custodial sentence was necessary, and the two-year term would have been "considerably longer" had it not been for Gallagher's "present lamentable condition".

He disqualified her from driving for three years and refused to postpone her incarceration until after Christmas.

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