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Man accused of dangerous driving causing death of schoolgirl, 14, in Offaly had been texting while driving, court hears

Man accused of dangerous driving causing the death of schoolgirl, 14, in Offaly had been texting while driving, court hears.

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A MAN accused of dangerous driving causing the death of a schoolgirl, 14, in Offaly last year had been texting while driving in the moments leading up to the tragedy, a court has heard.

Eric Dunne, 26, of Belair, Co Offaly, was found to have been sending text messages from his phone seconds before his jeep fatally struck Aoife Doyle as she and her best friend walked along with the Clara to Ballycumber road at Erry, Clara, on March 20, 2020.

Man accused of dangerous driving causing death of schoolgirl, 14, in Offaly had been texting while driving, court hears
Eric Dunne
Man accused of dangerous driving causing death of schoolgirl, 14, in Offaly had been texting while driving, court hears
Aoife Doyle

Mr. Dunne pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death on November 17, 2020, ahead of today’s sentencing hearing before Judge Keenan Johnson at Tullamore Circuit Criminal Court.

Sgt Simon Murphy told the court of how gardai had been called to a serious road traffic accident scene shortly after 7 pm.

In interviews and following his arrest on June 30, the court heard Mr. Dunne told gardai he had been out shopping with his girlfriend in Tullamore earlier that day.

“All I remember was the bang,” the court heard, saying he also could not recall texting from his phone in the minutes leading up to the tragedy.

DRIVER REMORSE

In a letter penned by Mr. Dunne and read out on his behalf by defense counsel Des Dockery SC, the former night operations courier supervisor expressed his remorse.

He said: “I wish it were me instead of Aoife.

“She would be here today if it wasn’t for my stupidity. I can honestly say I did not see her, and there is not a day or night that I don’t think of her.”

Mr. Dunne, the court was told, was also a learner driver that had been unaccompanied when the incident unfolded.

Victim impact statements were also read out by Aoife’s best friend Cara Cronly and her aunt Emer Doyle.

Cara said: “We thought we would grow old together.”


And Ms. Doyle said: “We are broken behind repair.”

Judge Johnson described the circumstances surrounding the case as “absolutely tragic.”

He adjourned sentencing until next Tuesday.