A PENSIONER has told of the horror moment she caused a road accident which claimed the life of a teenager.
Mary O’Malley, 84, was the driver of a Ford Focus car which collided with Melissa Patterson, 18, on July 30, 2015.
Tragic Melissa, from Castlebar, Co Mayo, was walking on the hard shoulder of the N60 at Carrownurlaur in Castlebar when she was hit.
Mrs O’Malley was given a two-year suspended prison sentence and banned from driving for 15 years for dangerous driving causing death at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court last October.
The widowed mum-of-six, who has a previously flawless 55-year motoring record, said she thinks and prays every day for Melissa’s mum Carmel, her twin sister Belinda, her sister, Samantha and her brother.
Retired primary schoolteacher Mrs O’Malley, from Newport, Co Mayo, said: “Their pain must be unbearable and I extend to them my deepest sympathy.”
Today’s inquest heard from Mayo University Hospital consultant pathologist Dr Fadel Bennani that the cause of death was multiple injuries including blunt trauma to the chest and abdomen and a fractured skull.
Mrs O’Malley told the inquest she does not have a clear recollection of the details of the accident.
She said: “I remember suddenly seeing a girl when she was very close to me. Actually I thought she was a child.
“I felt panic stricken. I turned the wheel left as fast as I could, thinking that would prevent me from hitting her.
“I heard a thud and I realised I had hit her as I veered into the fence. I saw her thrown up into the air and landing in the ditch inside the fence. I cannot tell you how awful that was.”
She added: “This day will stay with me forever. My life will never be the same again. I tried to hard to avoid her but I didn’t succeed.
“I know what I suffer doesn’t compare to the loss Carmel and her family have to endure. I wish I had that day back again for all of us.”
After hearing the medical evidence, Mr Gerry Tolster, foreman of the inquest jury, returned a verdict of accidental death.
Coroner Patrick O’Connor described the accident as “a dreadful tragedy” which caused huge emotional scarring for the victim’s family and had also traumatised Mrs O’Malley.
Supt Joe McKenna, speaking on behalf of An Garda Siochana, expressed appreciation for the many voluntary fundraising initiatives launched in Melissa’s name in the wake of her tragic death.
Solicitor Caroline McLaughlin, on behalf of the Patterson family, expressed gratitude to the gardai and paramedics as well as members of the public who attended at the scene.
She said the care and attention Melissa had been given was a source of great comfort to her family.
Ms McLoughlin went on to describe Melissa, a student at Davitt College in Castlebar, as bubbly, a talented sportswoman and a musician who was greatly missed by all.
She said Melissa’s family hoped her death would not be in vain and that road safety lessons would be learned from her passing.
Karen O’Malley, a daughter of the car driver, also spoke expressing sympathy to the Patterspon family on their great loss.