A TEENAGE girl was thrown 20 feet into the air after she was hit by a car that mounted a footpath while she was walking with friends near Westport.
After being struck, the girl, who was 13 at the time, landed in the front garden of a home along the West Road at Cloghan, Westport.
The schoolgirl was walking along the footpath towards the local skatepark with friends when the accident occurred. Despite the impact, she escaped without life-threatening injuries but suffered two fractures and a chipped bone in her pelvis.
The incident which occurred at approximately 5.30pm on May 3, 2015, was recalled at last week’s sitting of Westport District Court, when Nigel Mortimer of Erriff, Liscarney, Westport, who was driving the car which struck the girl, was charged with careless driving and having three bald tyres. He contested the charges and was cleared of careless driving.
Teresa Dawson of Moyhastin, Westport, also appeared before the court, where she pleaded guilty to careless driving on the same date.
‘Am I paralysed?’
The court heard that Ms Dawson was indicating to turn right into a driveway when she stopped to let the girl and her friends cross the entrance while walking along the footpath. As she began to turn across the road, Mr Mortimer was travelling in the opposite direction and in order to avoid Ms Dawson’s car, he was forced to veer left and as a result he mounted the footpath.
When the car mounted the footpath, it hit another girl, who was also 13, in the hip before driving into the girl who was thrown in the air. She was lifted onto the bonnet and window and was thrown into the air before coming down on the roof of the car and toppling into the lawn of the adjacent house. The girl who was struck first suffered a cut to her hip but was not seriously injured.
Garda Hugh McHugh told the court he was travelling on the West Road towards Murrisk when the patrol car slowed down as a car was indicating right. He said his heart was in his mouth as he glanced to his right and saw a car mounting the footpath and ‘something was thrown up in the air’.
When he got out of the car to investigate, he found the girl was in a lawn screaming ‘am I paralysed?’. His colleague, Garda Brian Guerin asked her to lie still and not to move. Garda McHugh spoke to Mr Mortimer and Ms Dawson. Both were breathaysed and both passed the test for alcohol.
The court heard it had been raining on the day but it was bright. Mr Mortimer had been driving his brother’s Ford Fiesta which had been bought a few weeks previously. When it was examined, three of his tyres were below the legal tread limit.
In his defence, Mr Mortimer (who was 20 at the time of the incident) denied driving over the 80kph speed limit. He said he had to react quickly and claimed it was a natural reaction to turn left and not to crash into the other car.
Keith O’Connell, a Chartered Engineer who examined the scene, explained that the distance Mr Mortimer’s car travelled before stopping was within the RSA recommendations for stopping in wet weather.
Defending solicitor, Dermot Morahan, said his client did not have a ‘chance in hell’ of getting out of the way, and his only other option was to ‘plough into’ Ms Dawson’s car. He said the bald tyres did not contribute to the accident and should not constitute careless driving.
Supt Seán Colleran said the onus was on the driver to be aware of his surroundings and be able to react to anything that happens.
Giving her judgement, Judge Mary Devins said the evidence of independent expert Keith O’Connell was clear and showed that Mr Mortimer could have stopped his car safely if he did not have to swerve to avoid Ms Dawson’s car.
She said Ms Dawson’s efforts to be helpful and kind had contributed to the accident, and she dismissed the charge of careless driving against Mr Mortimer.
He was convicted of having three bald tyres and fined €200, and Ms Dawson, who had pleaded guilty to careless driving, was also fined €200.