Four year ban for bus driver whose driving caused the death of Meath cyclist

By Declan Brennan

Drivers must have particular regard to the vulnerability of cyclists on the road, a judge has said in the sentencing of a bus driver whose driving caused the death of cyclist.

Osborn Irabor (58) of French Park, Tyrrelstown, Dublin had pleaded not guilty to careless driving causing the death of Meathwoman Mary White (55) on November 17, 2014 .

At a sentence hearing today (Monday) at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Francis Comerford heard that at around 9.40pm that night the double decker bus driven by Irabor struck Ms White. Ms White was knocked off her bike and sustained traumatic head injuries.

She was rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead two days later. In a victim impact statement the victim's elderly mother, Peg White, said her daughter had spent 35 years cycling around Dublin and was meticulous on the roads.

Ms White  said suggestions during the trial that her daughter was at fault were hard on the family, though she accepted defence lawyers were doing their job.

The near head-on collision took place around 9.40pm at a T-junction on Burlington Road in the south of the city as the bus was turning right into the road Ms White was cycling on.

Ms White, who was cycling towards the junction, had front and back lights on and was wearing a “hi-viz” jacket. Judge Comerford said she was a fully responsible road user.

He said that one of two aggravating factors in the case was the fact that Irabor was a professional driver.

The other was the “vulnerability” of cyclists, he said, noting what he said is a mis-match between the size and security of a bus and the vulnerability of a pedal cyclist.

“There has to be particular regard for cyclists because of their vulnerability,” he said.

The evidence in the trial was that the bus began cutting the corner at 5m from the junction. It did not come up to the yield marking.

Judge Comerford said Irabor did not set out that day to break the law and there was no criminal intent. He said that he had no doubt that Irabor did not see the bicycle and he believed the likely reason for this was a blind spot created by the driver's wing mirror.

He said if the bus had stopped at the junction the bicycle would not have been in the blind spot.

“The bicycle was in the blind spot because the bus was cutting the corner,” he said.

“The failure to see her resulted from that breach in standard of driving, (something) a reasonable and prudent driver wouldn’t undertake,” he said. A professional driver should have been aware of the blind spot, he added.

He said he had no doubt that Irabor believed the road he was turning into was clear but that this view did not take into account visibility on the night, the potential presence of cyclists and the blind spot.

He said that in road traffic cases the greater the risk posed by an action, the more likely the harm and the greater the moral responsibility.

He said that Irabor's conduct was at the lower end of the range of risk. Irabor has no previous convictions and has an unblemished safety record since he began working for Dublin Bus in 2007.

Judge Comerford said he was not satisfied that the level of careless driving warranted imprisonment. He said that a mandatory driving ban of four years followed from the conviction and that this would most likely result in the loss of Irabor's employment.

He said this was sufficient punishment but added that “there is no comparison between the loss of Mary White and her family and the burden the ban places on Irabor”.

Garnet Orange SC, defending, asked the court to defer the driving ban to January as the job loss would go hard on the father-of-three in the run up to Christmas. Judge Comerford ordered the disqualification to take effect from New Year's Day next.

Mr Orange said that the collision took late at night in a location with limited traffic at that time. When gardaí arrived on the scene shortly afterwards Irabor was in a very distressed state.

The judge noted that this distress has continued and that Irabor has received psychiatric therapy since.

Mr Orange said that Irabor is a deacon in a local Christian church and is deeply remorseful.

“This is something that still brings him to tears. He is absolutely devastated in his role in death of Mary White,” counsel said.

During the trial Mr Orange told the jury that what killed Ms White was the head injury sustained when the back of her head hit the road. He said her helmet was not fastened and had only being resting on her head.

The court heard the helmet was found on the road and could not be fastened. Dt Sgt Kelly agreed that gardai never retrieved any clip that might be used to fasten the helmet.