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Man jailed for dangerous driving causing death in Cork

A man who knocked down and killed a 51-year-old woman when he was three times over the legal limit for alcohol just hours after he attended the funeral of his father has been jailed for 18 months.

Gobnait Twomey, a native of Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh in Co Cork, had graduated from college three months before her death which occurred just weeks before Christmas in 2022.

She was living in Dublin but had returned home to Cork for the funeral of her uncle Willie which took place hours before the fatal accident.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Michael Lucey, 42, of Doire Ghiolla Fhinn, Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh, had left a funeral reception for his father in the early hours of 13 December 2022.

He did not have a car with him at the reception. On impulse, he got behind the wheel of the vehicle of a man who was with him as he felt he was too intoxicated to drive.

Mr Lucey drove the vehicle down the main street in Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh at 1.10am and came upon and struck a group of five pedestrians at a narrow turn outside the Old Forge Bar.

Among the group was the late Gobnait Twomey, her mother and sister. The court was told that Eibhlís Twomey knelt over the body of her daughter as she took her last breath. A number of people were injured in the incident.

Garda Deirdre O’Mahony said that Mr Lucey had 179mgs of alcohol per 100mls of urine when the accident occurred.

She told Judge Colin Daly that his alcohol level was high given that the legal limit is 67mgs.

Michael Lucey had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Gobnait Twomey

Elizabeth O’Connell, SC, for the defence said that her client was a “thoroughly decent man” who wanted to apologise for the tremendous harm he had caused the Twomey family.

Ms O’Connell said that gardaí had indicated that her client was driving at a speed of just 27.3 kilometres per hour when he struck the pedestrians.

However, she said as Mr Lucey was over the limit his reaction time wasn’t what it should have been.

She also said that the lighting on the street at the time of the crash was poor and that all of the people gathered were in dark funeral clothing.

Ms O’Connell told Judge Daly that “there are other prisons other than those made of stone” whilst adding that her client would have to live with the guilt of his actions for the rest of his life.

In sentencing Mr Lucey Judge Daly said that his culpability was “very significant.”

“He (Mr Lucey) made a conscious decision to drive when he couldn’t have failed to realise that his ability to drive was significantly impaired. He was three times over the limit (for alcohol).”

Taking the plea and the lack of convictions of Mr Lucey into consideration he jailed him for three years suspending the last 18 months of the sentence.

He also disqualified Mr Lucey from driving for a period of five years.

Mr Lucey had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Gobnait Twomey.

He also pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and to a second charge of dangerous driving.

Meanwhile, Seán Twomey, a brother of the deceased had made a victim impact statement on behalf of the family.

He said that their world had been “blown” apart by the death of Gobnait.

He recalled the “carnage” he witnessed when he got the call about the accident and arrived at the scene of the crash.

Mr Twomey said: “The scene was total chaos. I knew instantly that Gob was dead. She was lying on the road completely broken. My other sister was being attended to by paramedics who happened to be in the village when the fatality happened.

“My Mam was hysterical having seen her daughter being rolled over, and there were two others also lying on the road.

“We stayed with Gob until we could put her into the coffin. We didn’t know the extent of Kate’s injuries so another brother went straight to CUH to meet Kate’s ambulance.

“What we experienced and witnessed on the road that night can never be unseen.

“It is difficult to grieve any loss of a loved one but to have seen her broken on the road is an added trauma altogether.

“Our loss is incomprehensible. The impact of that night hasn’t just affected us, but the whole village.”

Mr Twomey said that they lost their father within months of the death of Gobnait.

“We had to tell Dad that his daughter had been killed the same day that he buried his brother. He had fought like a warrior for two years to beat his cancer, but his will to live died that day. He died brokenhearted a few months later,” he said.

Mr Twomey said that Gobnait was the heart and soul of their close-knit family of two girls and seven boys.

“Wherever Gob was there was bound to be good craic, joking and lots of laughter. She loved to laugh and we couldn’t help but join in with her loud contagious laugh.

“She was generous to a fault with her time, attention and especially her love.

“She wore her heart on her sleeve. She was the best part of all of us. As a family we are totally heartbroken.

“All we have left now are the wonderful memories she left us with, which are unfortunately still tangled up in the awfulness of that night.

“Knowing we should have had many more years with her has left us feeling cheated. We still can’t make sense of the tragic events of that night. We don’t believe we ever will. It has changed our family forever.”

Meanwhile, Jay Ammari the French long-term partner of Gobnait said in his victim impact statement that 13 December 2022 was the worst day of his life.

He said: “I have no home (now). I have just somewhere I live or stay. Home was where she was. Ireland became home thanks to Gobnait. She was the only family I had in Ireland and made me feel Irish. Now our small apartment looks empty without her.

“The days look the same. I just live to work, pay the rent and the bills. Work and friends keep me busy but the happiness is gone. I miss her conversation her humour and her contagious laugh. When I come back from work nobody is waiting for me. I have nobody to live for now.

“I haven’t touched her toothbrush in the bathroom and kept some of her clothes. Some foods that she liked to cook are still in the cupboard of the kitchen. I still cannot remove them. It’s too hard for me.”

Pádraig Horgan who was injured in the incident also delivered a victim impact statement. He said he will never forget what unfolded on the night of the accident.

Mr Hogan said: “It was only in the last second, that I realised the jeep was not stopping, or turning, and that it was going to hit us.

“All I could do was brace myself. I put my left hand up to protect myself and I was hit with force, and subsequently blown back about ten feet.

“I remember flying into the air and hitting the ground. The pain was so bad I thought that my left foot had been severed off. I looked down and thank God I was still in one piece.

“It was later that night while sitting in the ambulance that I discovered there was a hole burnt in through my leather shoe and sock and the skin was also burnt off my foot. I believe had I not put up my left hand on the night that they may well have been another fatality.

“I watched on that night as Eibhlís Twomey knelt by her daughter’s side and watched her slip away. It is an image I can never forget; it will be with me forever.

“My injuries have also restricted me in doing the most basic of things – most upsettingly is the pain in my back restricts me from playing with my two-year-old son, sometimes when the pain is very bad I have to refuse to play with him and this is heartbreaking as he is too young to understand why I can’t physically engage with him.”

Mr Horgan thanked the Twomey family for the support and empathy they had shown towards him in the aftermath of the tragedy.

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