An 83-year-old woman has been fined €1,000 and banned from driving after she pleaded guilty to careless driving causing the death of a musician and father-of-two.
Heartbroken Máire Ní Threasaigh gave a chilling victim impact statement recalling the life and death of her late husband Leonard ‘Lenny’ Nelson.
The 58-year-old victim, a nephew of the late showbusiness legend Billy Barry, was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a car in October 2014.
Pensioner Moira Edwards, now aged 83, appeared at a sitting of Falcarragh District Court after pleading guilty to careless driving causing the death of Mr Nelson.
Ms Máire Ní Threasaigh told how her life had been changed utterly since her husband’s death and how one of the most painful things was having to cover the hands of the man who played several musical instruments during his wake.
The details of the tragic accident were given in Garda evidence to the court.
The accused, Mrs Edwards, had been visiting a neighbour on the night of the accident.
She was emerging from the woman’s farmhouse near Lisfannon, Burt and was turning right onto the main road to drive to her home after 10pm.
However, a grey BMW car collided with the front of Mrs Edwards emerging car and it went into a tailspin hitting an oncoming motorcycle being driven by the late Leonard Nelson of Cullion Road, Letterkenny.
The accident and emergency services arrived at the scene within minutes on what was described as a damp and blustery night.
Garda Sgt Niall Cody told how he and others tried to resuscitate Mr Nelson but he was pronounced dead at the scene at 11.20pm by a doctor who had arrived after the accident.
Sgt Cody said he later interviewed the drivers of both cars as part of the investigation.
Mrs Edwards said she did not remember seeing any vehicles coming from the direction of Derry and after she looked left and right, all she remembered was hearing a bang.
The driver of the BMW car, Conor Galagher, from Derry, had been working as an engineer with oil company, Shell, in Belmullet, Co Mayo.
In a statement to Gardai, he revealed how he was driving at around 90kph and was coming around a bend when suddenly a car emerged onto the road and he tried to swerve to avoid it.
He said the car hit the left-hand side of his car, sending it into a spin and he remembers striking another vehicle.
He added that he did not think the driver of the other car which he collided with had seen him.
There was stunned silence in the courtroom when the victim’s wife Ms Ní Threasaigh took to the witness stand to read her victim impact statement.
She thanked passer-by Fiona Doherty who had tried to give Lenny CPR before telling him that he was loved so much and would be missed so much.
Ms Ní Threasaigh said there was now a “gaping crater” in her life after the death of her husband and how she had been unable to return to work and had lost two stone in weight.
She told how Mr Nelson, a technician at the Playhouse Theatre in Derry, exuded an energy for life that was infectious and described him as her husband, fellow adventurer, lover, soul mate and best friend.
She said “I go to bed every night and I wake up to an empty pillow and is like being stabbed over and over and over again.”
She recalled how there were more than 1,000 people at Lenny’s wake and funeral.
Ms Ní Threasaigh added that she hopes her late husband is happy now and in a place filled with light and music adding that the day he died will always be for her the day the music died.
She then read a poem which she wrote days after meeting Mr Nelson for the first time.
Solicitor for Mrs Edwards, Kieran MacLochlainn, said his client has been unable to drive since the accident and will probably never drive again.
“She has had to live with the fact that she killed a totally innocent man and that he did no wrong,” added Mr MacLochlainn.
He said he had been given a number of character references on behalf of Mrs Edwards whom he said lived for her family and her church.
He said Mrs Edwards had no explanation for the accident other than she simply did not see the other car coming.
“Age is clearly a factor because there is no rational explanation other than Mrs Edwards did not see the other car. Age is a terrible thief, just when you are getting a handle on life, age comes and kicks the legs from out underneath you,” he said.
Judge Paul Kelly commended Ms Ní Threasaigh for her victim impact statement which he described as heartwrenching and inaudibly beautiful saying she was a most eloquent and articulate woman.
He thanked her for the tribute which, he said, “brilliantly conveyed the soul and spirit of Mr Nelson to this court today.’
He reminded the court that the District Court did not have the authority to hand down a custodial sentence in a case of careless driving causing death but he said he did not think the court would pass such a sentence down if it were allowed.
“I have little doubt that the events of this faithful night will live with Mrs Edwards for the rest of her life.
“This is an utterly tragic case of two people of impeccable character came together with devastating and cathastrophic consequernces,” he said.
He fined Mrs Edwards €1,000 and banned her from driving for four years.