emotional distress | 

Family sues Danny Healy-Rae firm over death of mother-of-six in truck accident

Joanne Downey, a 50-year-old care assistant died two days after she was hit by a truck bearing the Healy-Rae name

Danny Healy-Rae

Mark TigheSunday Independent

The civil engineering firm owned by Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae is facing a series of compensation claims from the family of a mother-of-six who died after being knocked down by one of the company’s trucks.

Joanne Downey, a 50-year-old care assistant and member of Killarney Legion GAA club, died in Cork University Hospital on July 19, 2020, two days after she was hit by a truck bearing the Healy-Rae name.

Last week Katrina Horan, one of Ms Downey’s children, filed a personal injury action against Healy-Rae Plant Hire Ltd in the High Court, seeking damages for the emotional distress caused by her mother’s death.

Ms Horan is represented by O’Connor O’Donoghue solicitors.

It is understood it is the first in a series of claims Ms Downey’s family will take against the Healy-Rae company.

The family were forced to have a restricted-attendance funeral in Killarney, due to the Covid rules that applied at the time.

Following Ms Downey’s death, Fergal Moynihan of Killarney Legion GAA said she had volunteered and helped out in the club by cooking meals for the teams, even after her children stopped playing.

“She did that from the start of the year to the end of the year,” he said. “There’s just so many examples like that. She is a huge loss to her family and to our club,” he said.

“The players were mad about her, she was like a second mother to most of them. Joanne was so well thought of within the club. Her kids played and even after they stopped playing, she stayed involved. Joanne was such a valued member of the club and had the kind of loyalty that can’t ever be replaced.

"It hit home hard. Joanne will be missed.”

Sean Tangney, the 71-year-old driver of the truck who has an address of 124 Pinewood Estate in Killarney, was charged with careless driving causing the death of Ms Downey last September. His case is listed for trial in Tralee Circuit Court in January.

Healy-Rae Plant Hire is owned by Danny Healy-Rae and his wife Eileen.

Its managing director is Johnny Healy-Rae, their son, who is a director of the company. He is also a county councillor and part of the formidable Healy-Rae political team in Kerry.

Financial records show Healy-Rae Plant Hire made a record €743,244 profit in 2020, bringing its accumulated profits to €2.58m. Among its clients are Kerry County Council which paid it €341,347 for plant hire in 2020.

In a statement, Johnny Healy-Rae said: “The case to which you refer is still going through the legal process and for that reason as a company we cannot comment any further at this time.”

In 2008, an inquest heard how Timothy Morley, a Kerry County Council worker, was crushed to death when a Healy-Rae Plant Hire employee drove over him in an earth-moving machine.

The driver, who was found to be over the drink-drive limit, moved to Australia before the inquest. He was not prosecuted.

Healy-Rae Plant Hire has also been sued by Tim Cox, a former worker, who claimed the company was negligent in failing to ensure a small road he used to deliver a load of stone to a wind farm would not give way. Mr Cox injured his back, arms and legs when the truck’s seatbelt allegedly failed as the vehicle rolled down the embankment.

Asked about both cases, Johnny Healy-Rae said: “The other case has also been dealt with by the relevant authorities many years ago, and I have nothing further to add.

"Healy-Rae Plant Hire has been operation for almost 70 years and has always endeavoured to ensure best safety practices and legal responsibility are maintained.

"Healy-Rae Plant Hire has several safety procedures, audits and training for all employees above and beyond what is statutory required. Healy-Rae Plant Hire is also an accredited company in safety, environmental and quality.”

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