A man has been jailed for six years following the deaths of three Donegal women who were killed in a horrific road smash as they returned home from a dream holiday.
Jason Rowntree was found guilty of dangerous driving causing the deaths of the three women.
Margaret McGonagle (69) from Bruckless, her daughter, Mairead O’Neill Mundy (37), and their neighbour Rachel Battles (39) were all killed instantly following the smash at Aclint Bridge, Ardee, County Louth on July 21, 2017.
They had been driving back to Donegal having had a dream holiday in Turkey when the tragedy happened around 12.30am a short time after they left Dublin Airport.
The Irish Independent reports how Rowntree of Plantation House, Kingscourt, Co Louth collided head on with a Toyota Auris car on July 21.
Dundalk Circuit Court heard how the accused man had drank between three and five pints of Guinness in a pub prior to the accident and had no recollection of the accident after he was seriously injured.
Mairead’s husband Padraig Mundy was driving behind the car in which his wife was fatally injured.
He said “It was like somebody reached into my body and pulled my heart out.”
He described her bubbly personality and told of the love he never felt before when he met her in 2014 and they had so much plans.
Gayle McGonagle said the deaths of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law left a “gaping hole” in her life.
Rowntree pleaded guilty to the dangerous driving charge before Christmas at Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court and today Judge Patrick Quinn handed down sentence.
He sentenced Rowntree to six years with the final two years suspended on conditions that including the accused attend alcohol awareness and counselling programmes.
The Judge said the accused crossed a continuous white line onto the opposite side of the road and collided with the Toyota Auris car.
The Judge however, remarked he couldn’t ignore the statement of a lorry driver who told Gardai a Black Volkswagen Passat pulled out in front of him from a side road and then pulled up onto the hard shoulder.
The Judge said it was not a case of a momentary lack of attention, while accepting the accused didn’t intend the damage that he caused.
The accused had accepted responsibility for the accident and had a clear record. He accepted his remorse was genuine.
The accused, who it was stated had not driven since the accident, was disqualified from driving for 15 years.