Driver pleads guilty to causing death of popular cyclist

September 9, 2020

A Gortahork man who was driving to the shop to get a newspaper for his father has pleaded guilty to careless driving causing the death of a cyclist.

Liam Cannon (pictured), a gardener, appeared before Letterkenny Circuit Court.

The case followed a road tragedy which took place on January 26th, 2018 which resulted in the death of Noel McDermott.

Mr McDermott, aged 43, was killed when he was struck by a car being driven by Cannon at Ardsbeg, Gortahork.

The driver had originally been charged with dangerous driving causing death but the prosecution accepted a lesser plea to careless driving causing death.

Garda Shaun O’Hara told the court that he arrived at the scene of the crash at 3.55pm.

There were no witnesses to the collision and no CCTV in the area.

When he arrived he found Mr Cannon, now aged 33, in an extremely upset and frantic state, had his head in his hands and that he was saying “I’ve killed him.”

He said the accused man was coming around a tight left bend and he lost control of the car which went across to the opposite side of the road hitting Mr McDermott.

Mr McDermott, a devoted family man and father-of-three young children who was originally from Hawthorn Heights in Letterkenny, was pronounced dead at the scene.

A Garda forensic examination of the scene found the road was governed by an 80km speed limit, the conditions on the day were good and that Mr Cannon’s car was in a good pre-accident condition.

The forensic examination of the scene found that although the road was governed by an 80kph speed limit, the bend on which the crash happened could not be negotiated at such a speed.

The investigation concluded that the driver was going too fast into the bend to safely negotiate it and over-corrected his car and lost control of it at speed at struck Mr McDermott.

Two victim impacts statements were given on behalf of both the late Mr McDermott’s wife Aifric, and also on behalf of his mother, brother and three sisters.

Mr McDermott’s brother-in-law, retired Detective Garda Bosco Gallagher read the statement on behalf of Mrs McDermott.

In a touching tribute, she said that life was so good with Noel and their two young children before he died.

She said he lived for his family, farming and cycling and that when her own mother was diagnosed with cancer Noel stepped in to allow her the time to look after her mum.

However, since Noel’s death, she struggles to find answers for her children about what happened on the day their daddy was killed.

“Noel is no longer with us and we will never get over the loss of him. We shared so many happy memories.

“But I am an empty shell of grief and I merely exist. Our lives will never be the same again,” she wrote.

Mrs Maureen O’Donnell, Noel’s sister, said the events of the evening of the 26th January 2018 will be forever etched in their hearts and minds.

“Noel’s passing is felt most heartfelt in his family home in Bun na Leaca and it is heart-breaking when we see his beautiful children missing out on their Dad’s love and devotion in their lives.

“Noel lived for his children and his wife Afric and it is incomprehensible to see them growing up without him.”

She added that the whole family is overwhelmed with a sense of devastation at the suddenness of the tragedy and the immensity of the loss in each of their lives.

“This devastation has affected us all in different ways and has had an impact on our day to day lives,” she said.

In a moving tribute to her late brother, Mrs O’Donnell said the entire family are so proud of everything Noel had achieved in his life and have an immense regret that he didn’t get the chance to pursue his devotion to his wife and children.

“We are reminded constantly by people talking about Noel, by looking back over photographs and by our own beautiful personal memories of the wonderful precious person he is. His beautiful smile that lit up a room will continue to live in our hearts as we trundle on through life without him.

“It is impossible to express publically how Noel’s death has affected each of us as coping with grief is such a private thing,” she added.

Barrister for Mr Cannon of Derryconnor, Gortahork Colm Smyth, SC, said his client had to live with the consequences of what had happened on a daily basis and was “tortured” by the events.

The accused said he wanted to tell the McDermott family about how sorry he was for what had happened.

He said “I deeply apologise for what happened. I think about Noel and his wife and family all the time and I can’t comprehend the effect it’s left on the family and how much shock and trauma it has caused them.

“I want them to know I am sincerely sorry for what happened. If I could turn back the clock and change it I would.

“I will live with the consequences for the rest of my life. I want them to understand that I never intended for it to happen.”

Judge John Aylmer adjourned the case for sentencing until next Tuesday.