A fatal accident at Custume Place in Athlone on March 16, 2011 was recalled at Athlone District Court on Wednesday (February 8 ), in which 85-year-old Frank Lennon died instantly after he was struck by a tractor.
Giving evidence was 47-year-old Martin Connolly of Lisbane, Kiltoom who was driving the vehicle at 3.10pm when the accident occurred.
When asked whether he was distracted at the time, the defendant told Judge Seamus Hughes he didn’t see the pedestrian because the sun was very strong.
The court heard a number of witnesses had supported the defendant’s claim, with the first woman stating she had her sun visor down, another witness said she had her window down in full because it was so warm, while another told gardaí Connolly hadn’t been driving fast at the time of the accident.
The defendant told the court he had been travelling from the direction of Athlone Hospital and had made a right turn after the lights had turned green, and he was travelling towards the bridge when the accident occurred.
On the tractor was a low loader used for lifting bales of hay or silage but the defendant admitted the sun visor had not been pulled down nor was he wearing his usual cap.
The court was told the right outside back tyre of the tractor went over the man who was later pronounced dead at the scene. The driver was later treated for shock when paramedics arrived.
Judge Hughes asked how close the victim was to the footpath and was told by Inspector Nicholas Farrell the man was close to the middle of the road. The inspector then showed Judge Hughes photographs of the tractor’s low loader and the position it was in at the time of the accident. He added the loader may have obscured the view of the driver and the pedestrian may have been a victim of the turning process.
Defence solicitor Jimmy Mannion described the incident as an unfortunate accident and the court extended its sympathy to the relatives of the deceased. He added the defendant no longer drove the tractor he bought for his 20-acre farm in 2006. He had fully cooperated with gardaí and was very upset by what had happened.
Judge Seamus Hughes told the defendant he was lucky the DPP hadn’t charged him with dangerous driving and added the front loader would not have helped him.
Connolly who has never driven a car, was fined €500 with four months to pay and was fined €100 for not having a driver’s licence.