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02 Dec 2021

Man to be ordered to attend inquest of friend he killed in crash

Letterkenny courthouse

Letterkenny courthouse

A man convicted of dangerous driving causing the death of his friend will be ordered to attend an inquest into the death.

Seosamh McGonigle will be subpoenaed to the inquest of John Hegarty, who died in a road traffic accident on July 13, 2015.

An inquest into Mr Hegarty’s death was opened at Letterkenny Coroner’s Court this week, but adjourned after McGonigle did not attend.

Members of Mr Hegarty’s family were present for the short hearing.

In May 2018 at Letterkenny Circuit Court, McGonigle, of Glackmore, Muff pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and having no insurance.

McGonigle, then aged 19, drove a Toyota Corolla from the Foot Inn in Burnfoot before losing control and crashing it into a large boulder.

Mr Hegarty was killed while two other men, McGonigle and a front-seat passenger, Lee McDermott, survived the crash.

Mr Hegarty, of Lisowen Avenue, Buncrana, who was not wearing a seat belt at the time, died at the scene from horrific injuries. He was just 21 years old.

McGonigle was sentenced to 16 months in jail with the entire term suspended for two years.

At the inquest, Mr Peter Nolan, BL, on behalf of the Hegarty family, said they were anxious that ‘every effort be made for his attendance so he can hear evidence that he hasn’t heard before and perhaps express his remorse to the family in relation to what happened.”

Coroner Dr Denis McCauley said: “I wish to have him here primarily as a witness to the investigation. We look at the facts of the case and what happened so we need witnesses to give evidence.”

Mr Nolan asked for an adjournment so a summons could be issued for the attendance of McGonigle and another witness.

“The family are all here and are anxious that this be given the full hearing,” Mr Nolan said.

“We need all of the actors to be here. We can’t have Hamlet without the Prince, so to speak.”

Sergeant Sean McDaid said that a summons was issued, but Gardaí were not yet able to serve it in-person,

Mr Nolan asked if personal service was necessary.

“You could order a substitute service if it is established that he is avoiding service,” Mr Nolan said. “At the moment, he doesn’t have to be here because he hasn’t been served. If he is served, he has to be here. There is a way around the avoiding of service.”

Sergeant McDaid said he was confident that the summons could be affected personally by January.

“From my point of view, as the coroner, I would prefer to run it in a flu way so we can get full facts. It’s important that we make every effort to have witnesses present.

“I hope an expect that An Garda Síochana will be successful in giving witness subpoena to people involved and I expect the people to comply. If not, I will consider action on relation to the powers under the new Coroner’s Act to proceed further.”

A coroner may direct a witness to answer questions and where a person fails, without a reasonable excuse, an application to the High Court may be made to force the person to comply with directions.

The inquest was adjourned until January 26, 2022.

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