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25/10/2021

Inquest hears young girl was only survivor in car in which three Donegal women died

The three Bruckless women died in a collision in Louth during their return from holiday

Inquest: Young girl only survivor in car following crash in Louth

Mairead Mundy , her mother Margaret McGonigle and Rachel Cassidy Battles were travelling home to Bruckless from a family holiday in Turkey on July 21, 2017 when they were killed

An inquest into the deaths of three Donegal women who were killed in a collision on the N2 north of Ardee, as they drove home from Dublin Airport after returning from a family holiday, has heard how a seven-year-old girl was the only person in the car, to survive the impact.

The hearing in Drogheda on Friday was told Margaret McGonigle, 69, her 37-year-old daughter Mairead Mundy and their friend, Rachel Cassidy Battles, 39, were travelling home to Bruckless from a family holiday in Turkey on July 21, 2017.

They were in convoy with a car driven by Mairead Mundy’s husband, when they were involved in the collision with a Volkswagen Passat at Aclint, Ardee.

A Garda forensic collision investigation found the Passat had crossed double continuous white lines into the path of the other car which hit an embankment and ended up on its roof after the head-on impact.

Only one of its occupants, Rachel Cassidy Battle’s daughter Danni survived and was trapped in the car.

A garda who attended the scene told the inquest how he had squeezed the young girl’s hand and asked her questions to distract her while fire and rescue personnel worked to access the casualties.

The jury heard the driver of the Passat, Jason Rowntree of Kingscourt, County Cavan, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death at Dundalk Circuit Court in March 2019, and was sentenced to six years and disqualified from driving for 15 years.

His sentencing hearing heard he had consumed between three and five pints of stout before the collision and he had no recollection of the crash. The final two years of the six-year sentence were suspended on conditions that included Rowntree attending alcohol awareness and counselling programmes.

Pathologist Dr Ruth Law, who performed the post mortems, told the jury the cause of death in each case was multiple traumatic injuries consistent with involvement in a road traffic collision.

The jury found the cause of death was dangerous driving of a third party.

In extending his sympathy, Louth county coroner Ronan Maguire described what happened as an obscene tragedy, adding: “Any words I can say are grossly inadequate to deal with the heartache and pain of the three families."

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