The judge who sentenced a teenager to four years in detention for dangerous driving causing the death of 16-year-old Kimberly O’Connor said it was shameful that eyewitnesses who knew the driver would not name him.
Daniel Wyse, 17, of 21 Killiney Heights, Knocknaheeny, Cork, pleaded guilty to that fatal offence and seriously injuring a teenaged boy who was also in the car when it crashed in a residential area on the north side of Cork city on February 19 last year.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin imposed a sentence of eight years with the last four years suspended at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
“Those who were there who knew him – much to their shame – were not prepared to make statements,” the judge said.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said that Kimberly O’Connor was an energetic, enthusiastic and idealistic teenager who lost her life when the car which Daniel Wyse was driving crashed into a pillar in Knocknaheeny while travelling at more than twice the speed limit.
Judge Ó Donnabháin accepted that the accused had expressed remorse but he said this was undermined by the fact that he fled the scene after the crash and failed to give himself up to gardaí for weeks if not months afterwards.
“The defendant drove with absolute disregard for the rules of the road. It was an area he may not have known as a driver but he certainly was aware of it from living in the area. It was dangerous to the point of being absolutely reckless,” he said.
Comparing it to one of the worst cases of its kind to come before the courts, the judge said this case may be worse again because of the serious injuries to one teenager and the death of another teenager.
“On top of that I have to examine what happened in the immediate aftermath. Daniel Wyse left the scene. Mr Creed (defence senior counsel Tom Creed) said fellas lost the head and he (Daniel Wyse) got a bit of a kicking. That may well be true but in no way does it explain the aftermath.
“If I accept what the guards say – and I do – he did not turn up at the garda station for weeks if not months,” the judge said.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said these actions and attempts to alter the Donedeal transaction in which he bought the car, all went to undermine Daniel Wyse’s expression of sympathy and remorse.
“It goes to magnify the seriousness of the case and his culpability.”
The 17 year-old defendant could not be named before now because he is a juvenile. However, this ban was lifted in the public interest by the judge. He disqualified Wyse from driving for 15 years and said it was a matter of public interest for anyone who might see him driving in the future to report him.
The deceased could not be named previously because of a Court of Appeal interpretation of the Children’s Act. However, Judge Ó Donnabháin also lifted that prohibition too and said Kimberly’s mother, Jennifer Haynes, had correctly stated that she did not want her daughter to be anonymous in coverage of the case. Ms Haynes said that her daughter’s name had been widely reported anyway before the proceedings against Daniel Wyse commenced.
Detective Garda Brian Holland told how the emergency services arrived at the scene just before midnight and they found the 16 year-old-girl fatally injured in the front seat of the badly damaged car and she was pronounced dead at the scene by a local doctor.
The 18-year-old rear seat passenger had suffered serious injuries and he was removed from the car after firefighters cut off the roof and he was rushed to CUH to undergo surgery. His injuries included a fracture of the skull and multiple other fractures.
He has regained the use of his limbs but he is working with a speech and language therapist while he also suffers from post-traumatic amnesia and he has no recollection of the collision.
Det. Garda Holland said Daniel Wyse was driving at a minimum of 119km per hour along a road which was governed by a 50kph speed limit when it crashed.