The driver of a car involved in a crash that claimed three young lives has ‘a case to answer’ on a number of offences relating to the smash, a Judge has found.
Sean Ward faces charges of driving without a licence, failing to produce insurance, failing to produce a driving licence and driving with no insurance on July 28, 2016.
Theresa Robinson (20), Kaylem Ó Murachaidh (19) and Steven McGrath-McCafferty (19) all lost their lives in the accident at Corravady, around five miles from Letterkenny.
Relatives of the three victims were in court as lengthy evidence was heard to determine whether it was ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that Ward was the driver of the Toyota Avensis car involved in the fatal crash.
Mr Ward was also seriously injured in the crash.
Solicitor for Sean Ward, Mr Kieran O’Gorman stressed that his client was before the court on a summons of driving a vehicle with no insurance on a certain date.
“My client is not on trial for anything other than driving a vehicle at a place on a date,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“This young man was very seriously injured, had bleeding on the brain, two broken legs, spent two weeks in intensive care, three weeks in hospital and is still suffering.
“He has no memory whatsoever of this accident – nothing before, during or after.”
Garda Kilcoyne said he was on duty on Thursday morning, July 28, 2016, when he received a report of a road traffic collision between Drumkeen and Letterkenny.
When he arrived at the scene, he observed a vehicle parked on the left-hand side of the road.
He said he was met by a man, Hugh Sweeney, who said he had called the emergency
Garda Kilcoyne found a young female, ‘lying half on the road and half in the passenger side of the car’. He found no pulse on the woman.
Garda Kilcoyne proceeded towards a small hatchback car, lying in the ditch. He observed a young male lying across the inside of the vehicle. He found no pulse on the man.
Garda Kilcoyne said he found a second young male lying alongside the rear driver side wheel of the car. Again, he found no pulse.
Garda Kilcoyne had found Sean Ward, of Hilltop, Stranorlar, at the back of the Toyota, ‘crawling on the road’.
The Garda told the Court that Sean Ward had said when questioned at the scene: ‘I’m going down the road. I’ve no licence. I’ve no nothing. I was driving. Is Teresa okay? I’m going down the road’.
Mr O’Gorman said his client would not have ‘understood what the caution was’, however Garda Kilcoyne said the man was able to give his address and date of birth.
Divisional scenes of crime officer Garda John Madigan gave evidence said he recovered what he described as ‘exhibits of forensic importance’ from the Toyota, among them the airbag from the driver’s side of the car.
In September 2016, Garda Madigan attended a secure storage area and removed the front passenger airbag from the Toyota.
The airbags were sent for forensic examination.
John Hoad, from Forensic Science Ireland, confirmed the DNA profile from areas of a light bloodstain on the driver’s airbag matched that of Sean Ward.
A bloodstain on the passenger airbag was generated from a female source.
“The conclusion was that the blood findings were what you would expect to find if Sean Ward was driving and a female was in the front passenger seat.
Ambulance driver John Ward said he spoke to Sean Ward, who he said was ‘coherent and adamant that he didn’t want me to go near him’.
He said: “He (Sean Ward) was adamant that he was getting no injections and he was coherent at the time. He told me his name, his date of birth and his address’.
Hugh Sweeney was taking bales of silage from Fintown on his lorry on the night in question and came upon the accident.
Mr Sweeney said that Sean Ward had told him that he was not driving the car.
Mr O’Gorman said his client had an ‘open wound that was bleeding continuously and needed 19 stitches.’
Mr O’Gorman said: ‘He has no memory of this terrible drama. It is a probability and a possibility, but it is not certain beyond reasonable doubt’.
Sean Ward was arrested for dangerous driving causing death on October 24, 2016.
Garda Kilcoyne said he was aware that Detective Garda Sullivan had made a demand of Sean Ward on August 2, 2016 to produce a driving licence and certificate of insurance within ten days and neither were submitted.
Inspector Michael Harrison argued that Sean Ward had made ‘an honest admission not under duress or stress’ and that this should be prima facie evidence.
“I believe beyond reasonable doubt that Sean Ward was the driver of the vehicle,” Inspector Harrison said.
Sean Ward, who has three previous convictions, has never had a driving licence, the Court heard.
“There is no way that blame can be attributed to anyone,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“He is suffering and will suffer for the rest of his life as a result of the horrendous injuries he received. He has brain and physical injuries that he will carry for the rest of his life.
“This does not in any way throw blame on any party with what happened on the night.”
Judge Kelly said he had no evidence bar observations to suggest that Sean Ward was incoherent or disorientated.
“I have to conclude that the admission is prima-face evidence that he was the driver of the vehicle,” Judge Kelly said.
“That is reinforced by DNA evidence. There are possible alternative explanations, but there is also the explanation that Mr Ward was the driver, the airbag came out and that is how the blood went on it. In my view, Mr Ward has a case to meet.”
The case was adjourned until May 2. Judge Kelly asked that a probation report and a community service report be prepared for that date.