OAP ‘didn’t know he’d been in crash’

El­derly driver struck cy­clist and car­ried on home

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By He­len Bruce he­len.bruce@dai­ly­mail.ie

AN el­derly driver drove home af­ter knock­ing over a cy­clist – and said he had no idea he had been in­volved in an ac­ci­dent.

De­nis O’Driscoll, 84, left cy­clist Olivia Walsh with mul­ti­ple skull frac­tures and brain haem­or­rhages af­ter knock­ing her fly­ing off her bike in Clon­akilty, Co. Cork. But he car­ried on home, and had no idea there had been a crash un­til his son saw the dam­age to his car.

His son drove back along his route and came across the scene of the crash. He no­ti­fied gar­daí to in­ter­view his fa­ther, who co-op­er­ated fully with their in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

A trial judge last year gave Mr O’Driscoll a 12-month sus­pended sen­tence and dis­qual­i­fied him from driv­ing for ten years, while warn­ing that more el­derly mo­torists will be in­volved in crashes as Ire­land ages.

Ms Walsh, 40, a cus­tomer ser­vice man­ager and marathon run­ner took a case for com­pen­sa­tion over the ac­ci­dent on June 2, 2016.

Dur­ing that case, In­spec­tor Fer­gal Fo­ley told the court Mr O’Driscoll, who was then 84, had said he be­lieved a fly had got into his eye, caus­ing a mo­men­tary lapse in his con­cen­tra­tion as he drove along the road. Insp Fo­ley said Mr O’Driscoll only re­alised he had hit Ms Walsh when he got home and his son saw the dam­age to his car.

The court heard that Judge Seán Ó Donnab­háin ques­tioned whether Mr O’Driscoll should have been driv­ing, even though he had been cer­ti­fied to do so, when he hit Ms Walsh.

Yes­ter­day, Ms Walsh, from Ba­hona, Clon­akilty, took a High Court case for com­pen­sa­tion against Mr O’Driscoll, of Cashel­more, Ban­don, Co. Cork, and his wife Mary O’Driscoll, the owner of the car.

Ms Walsh claimed Mr O’Driscoll had been driv­ing too fast, had not kept an ad­e­quate look­out, had driven in a care­less man­ner and had failed to fol­low the road signs and mark­ings in the area be­fore knock­ing her off her bike.

Her ac­ci­dent was seen by a driver fol­low­ing be­hind, and her le­gal pa­pers stated that an am­bu­lance was called and that she was taken to Cork Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal.

She had lost con­scious­ness and had ob­vi­ous head and fa­cial in­juries. She was put into an in­duced coma, and CT scans and X-rays were car­ried out. Ms Walsh was found to have suf­fered mul­ti­ple skull frac­tures, brain haem­or­rhages, a frac­tured shoul­der blade, frac­tured thigh­bone and a frac­tured ver­te­bra.

She un­der­went surgery, and re­mained in the in­ten­sive care unit un­til June 13, 2016, when she was moved to the neu­ro­sur­gi­cal ward.

She was dis­charged at the start of July, and sub­se­quently un­der­went phys­io­ther­apy, speech and lan­guage ther­apy and oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy. The court was told she had made a slow but good re­cov­ery, but that she had been left severely trau­ma­tised by the ac­ci­dent.

She had been de­scribed be­fore the ac­ci­dent as ‘ul­tra fit’. She was the first Ir­ish per­son to run 230km across the Ama­zon jun­gle, and had been pre­par­ing to run across the Arc­tic in 2017.

The case was called on be­fore Judge An­thony Barr. Fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions be­tween both sides, Ms Walsh’s coun­sel, Dr John O’Ma­hony SC, told the judge that the case had been set­tled and struck out.

The terms of the set­tle­ment were not made pub­lic. Dr O’Ma­hony said: ‘We are grate­ful in­deed for the time. It has af­forded us the op­por­tu­nity for a meet­ing of minds and the mat­ter has re­solved. This would have been a long and com­plex case.’

Mr O’Driscoll, a farmer, pleaded guilty at Cork Cir­cuit Crim­i­nal Court last year to care­less driv­ing caus­ing se­ri­ous bod­ily harm to Ms Walsh. Ms Walsh ex­pressed a wish that Mr O’Driscoll not be jailed for his of­fence, the court heard.

De­fence coun­sel Der­mot Shee­han SC said his client had not driven since the crash and will not drive again. ‘He has had 65 years of driv­ing with­out any pre­vi­ous com­plaint,’ he added.

Judge Ó Donnab­háin said he was con­cerned Mr O’Driscoll could hit some­one with­out re­al­is­ing.

‘Given his age, it’s ques­tion­able whether he should have been driv­ing,’ he said. ‘I don’t care whether he was cer­ti­fied to drive.’

While he said he was aware that tak­ing el­derly peo­ple off the road could make them ‘vir­tual pris­on­ers’ in their homes, he warned that the is­sue of older mo­torists be­ing in­volved in crashes ‘is a prob­lem that will in­crease in the fu­ture’.

‘Prob­lem will in­crease’

Hor­ror col­li­sion: Olivia Walsh yes­ter­day

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