A man whose wife and daughter died in a freak road traffic accident has called on the transport minster to give gardaí the power to impound cars driven by unaccompanied learner drivers.
Noel Clancy made the impassioned plea after a double inquest into the deaths of his wife, Geraldine, aged 58, and daughter Louise, aged 22, following an accident involving an unaccompanied learner driver in North Cork in 2015.
“If ever there was an example of a case of why the law requires that learner permit holders to be accompanied at all times, then this is it,” said Mr Clancy.
Ms Clancy and Louise, from the townland of Leitrim, near Kilworth, Fermoy, in Co Cork, both died from acute cardiorespiratory failure due to drowning following a road traffic accident after their Ford Focus was struck by an Opel Vectra driven by a neighbour, Susan Gleeson, on the R666 Ballyduff to Fermoy road just after 11am on December 22, 2015.
Ms Gleeson, who was alone while driving her father’s car, failed to make a left turn at a junction and drove onto the Clancy’s side of the road, striking their car and shunting it through a gap in a roadside wall, where it overturned and fell roof first into a flooded drain.
The two women drowned in the upturned car before they could be rescued.
Tragically, Mr Clancy, who came upon the accident moments later, was among those who tried to help before he realised the victims were his wife and daughter.
Ms Gleeson received a three-year suspended jail sentence at Cork Circuit Criminal Court last year after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths. She wept in the witness box yesterday as coroner Dr Michael Kennedy was told she had been driving for about eight months, and had had nine driving lessons, before the fatal accident.
In her statement, she said she misjudged the bend, and said she did not have her full concentration on the road. She apologised directly to the Clancy family and said she never meant for this to happen. “It was an accident. Every day I think about it,” she said.
Mr Clancy said he could not accept her apology and his family have been sentenced to a “lifetime of loss”.
He urged Transport Minister Shane Ross to move quickly, before the end of the year, on the recommendation from the inquest jury that gardaí be given the powers to impound cars being driven by unaccompanied learner drivers.
He also said Cork County Council plans to replace the broken wall at the crash site within weeks, and he hopes to incorporate a memorial plaque there in honour of his wife and daughter.