OAP ‘didn’t know he’d been in crash’
Elderly driver struck cyclist and carried on home
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