Mum of Estlin Wall (3) killed in crash 'in shock' after driver applied to have road ban lifted early
“This is the week of the fifth anniversary of Estlin’s death."
THE mother of a little girl killed in a car accident, caused by a truck driver's ‘crazy manoeuvre’, has spoken of her horror after learning he entered an application to have his licence restored – two years early.
Amy Dutil Wall was informed by a Garda Liaison Officer on Wednesday that truck driver Senan O’Flaherty had entered an application for the reduction of his four-year driving ban, arising from the accident, before Ennis District Court.
An inquest into the death of Amy’s daughter, three-year-old Estlin Wall, held last July, heard evidence of how a “crazy” manoeuvre in an unroadworthy vehicle by truck driver O’Flaherty led to little girl’s death.
Speaking with the Sunday World, Amy said she and husband Vincent had been "completed blind-sided and left in a state of shock" after they were told O’Flaherty had tried to have his ban reduced.
“We were totally blind-sided by it,” she said.
“We weren’t even aware this was an option for disqualified drivers.
“We were definitely very hurt by the timing as well.
“This is the week of the fifth anniversary of Estlin’s death.
“And again, it takes us back to the feeling that there has been a complete lack of taking responsibility on his part.
“That he would think a four-year driving ban is too much … after killing a child and brain injuring her father …. We are just completely gobsmacked by that.”
Estlin, of Ard Donagh, Ennistymon, Co Clare, was in a rear child seat in a car driven by her father, Vincent, at the time of the collision which occurred near Inagh, Co Clare, on March 15, 2017.
She died three days later from her injuries at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.
Last year, the Court of Appeal upheld an appeal by the DPP that a €1,500 fine imposed on O’Flaherty by Ennis District Court after convictions for careless driving causing death and careless driving causing bodily harm was unduly lenient.
Instead, the Court of Appeal imposed a 16-month sentence on Mr O’Flaherty (64) of Lower Gowerhass, Cooraclare, Co Clare, but suspended the full term for a period of two years.
The court also upheld the €1,500 fine and a four-year driving ban.
Asked how she had learned O’Flaherty was attempting to have the four-year ban reduced, Amy said she was informed on Wednesday by the Garda Liaison Officer.
“We heard from our Garda Liaison Officer and she had only heard herself that morning from the state solicitor that the application was going to be put before the court.
“As far as we understand it hadn’t even appeared on the court schedule.
“Now to be fair, whatever judge was sitting that day, struck it out immediately and refused to hear it because he hasn’t yet reached the 50 per cent mark in the ban that is required for him to be allowed to have his licence reinstated.
“He was a month early.
“Our belief is he should serve every single day of his driving ban.
“And that’s not simply because of a belief that he needs to be punished … we believe that anyway.
“It’s a matter of safety for our entire community.
“This man was working as a professional driver and he made such a horrendous mistake driving that day that he killed a child and left her father with a brain injury.
“I don’t see how anyone in our community would want somebody like that back on the road sooner than they should be.”
At the inquest into little Estlin’s death, details of how O’Flaherty’s driving caused the accident emerged.
The inquest heard that the collision occurred after O’Flaherty attempted to overtake a bus on an uphill section of road approaching a bend as Mr Wall was driving from the opposite direction.
Although Mr Wall’s car did not strike the truck, it spun out of control after going on a grass verge in an evasive manoeuvre and hit an oncoming vehicle behind the truck.
Morgan Lahiffe, whose vehicle was struck by Mr Wall’s car, said he immediately thought “bad move” when the truck started to overtake the bus.
Mr Lahiffe said the truck driver appeared to struggle to keep control of his vehicle as he pulled out of the overtaking manoeuvre.
Another eyewitness, Geraldine Kilbane, who was also travelling behind the truck said she would never overtake at such a location.
“I said to myself ‘what is he doing? Where is he going as there was a car coming down the hill," she said.
In a written statement, O’Flaherty claimed the bus driver had been going very slow and slowing down to 10mph on bends which led him to think there was something wrong with the bus.
O’Flaherty, who did not attend the inquest due to medical reasons, denied that he had ever tried to overtake the bus as he was carrying a heavy load of boulders from a nearby quarry but he admitted pulling out to see if it was safe to overtake several times.
The driver, who did not see the collision, claimed he had seen the bus move out into the other lane and had followed suit because he thought there might be some obstacle on the road.
The driver of the bus, Martin Hurley, denied that he had moved into the oncoming lane at any stage.
Mr Hurley, who was also unaware of the collision until contacted by gardaí, said he was aware the truck behind him had been trying to overtake him. He said: "I thought it was crazy."
Garda Brendan Condon, a vehicle inspector, said an examination of O’Flaherty’s tipper truck had shown it was dangerously defective due to the poor condition of its tyres, steering, and brakes.
Garda Condon said a tachograph had shown that the truck driver had been driving erratically and constantly speeding up and braking.
He claimed O’Flaherty’s speed was always between 40 and 60km/h which did not support the truck driver’s claims about slowing down for the bus.
Asked about the location of the collision, Garda Condon replied: “That’s not a road where you would overtake with a truck.”
The coroner, Dr Crona Gallagher, recorded a verdict of death in accordance with associated court proceedings of death due to careless driving.
Speaking after the inquest, Estlin’s mother, Amy Wall, said the evidence had provided “a renewed sense of injustice from the criminal proceedings”.
However, she said the family had heard all the information it had expected to hear two years earlier during a trial which did not go ahead due to a last-minute guilty plea.
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