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Court hears fatal hit-and-run driver was speeding and didn't brake

Willie Crowley
Willie Crowley

A hit and run driver who knocked down and killed Kildare councillor Willie Crowley in December 2015 was speeding and didn't brake, a court has heard.

Damien Klasinski (29) pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Crowley on Eyre Street, Newbridge. Mr Crowley (65) died from his head injuries in Naas Hospital a few days after he was struck by the uninsured vehicle on the evening of December 15, 2015.

Klasinski of The Oaks, Newbridge, Co Kildare drove off after hitting Mr Crowley. He told the other passengers in the car: “What am I supposed to do?”.

After his arrest he told gardaí that he had panicked, saying: “I am very sorry. It was an accident. I'm really hoping this man recovers”.

In her victim impact statement Mr Crowley's widow Claire Doyle said that her husband was taken from her “so brutally” and that her home is no longer a home.

“I lost my husband and my best friend,” she said.

The victim's sister Breda Crowley-Arnold said her brother's name was a byword in her family for all that was good and admirable.

Detective Garda Sergeant James O'Sullivan told Lorcan Staines BL, prosecuting, that Mr Crowley was walking home from the pub on the night but was not intoxicated.

He was crossing the street when Klasinski's car struck him. One witness said the impact sent the victim flying into the air.

He said that the driver didn't sound his horn or apply the brakes. Sgt O'Sullivan said that Klasinski met an oncoming vehicle and the street was too narrow for both vehicles to pass together.

Klasinski swerved in without braking to let the vehicle pass and swerved out again. Mr Crowley had been waiting behind the other vehicle and was standing in the middle of the road.

Klasinski said he swerved unsuccessfully to avoid the victim. He said he had only just set out on the road and was driving at around the speed limit of 50km/hr.

Eye witnesses estimated him to be travelling at speeds in excess of this and up to 80 km/hr. It had rained earlier in the day making the road wet and the street lighting was poor.

Judge Melanie Greally said Klasinski was driving at a speed much too fast for the conditions on the night. She adjourned the case to May 12 next for sentence.

Mr Staines said the prosecution was taken on the basis that the accused was driving at an unsafe speed in circumstances where the ground was wet and on a dark winter night in an area where people were around.

The court heard Klasinski, a Polish native, has 13 previous convictions mainly for road traffic offences. In June 2016 he was disqualified from driving for two years for driving without insurance in November 2015.

In February 2017 he was convicted at Cork District Court for drunk driving on a date in February 2015.

The court heard details of a testimonial from a prison chaplain who stated that Klasinski felt genuinely profound remorse.

“He relives this tragedy everyday. He cannot forgive himself,” the chaplain wrote. 

Charges of failure to stop at a accident and failing to assist at the scene of an accident are to be taken into consideration by the court.