The parents of a 19-month-old Fermanagh toddler wept on Wednesday as a Sligo-based student was cleared of causing the death of their son Ryan in a horrific crash almost three years ago.
Peter and Katriona Cox shook their heads as the Dungannon Crown Court jury acquitted the former University of Ulster student, John Michael Fahy, from Groagagh Grange in Sligo, of causing the death of baby Ryan, and injuring his mother, by careless driving on the Boa Island Road outside the border town of Belleek on January 14, 2013.
It had taken the jury of six men and six women just under an hour and forty-five minutes to unanimously acquit the 25-year-old fourth-year architectural student of the two charges of causing death and grevious bodily injury by careless driving.
By their verdicts, the jury accepted Mr Fahy’s account of the crash and rejected the prosecution case that through either “inexperience or over-steering” he had driven into the path of Mrs Cox’s car.
Afterwards neither Mr or Mrs Cox, or Mr Fahy wished to comment on the case or the verdicts.
The student had told the court that after rounding a bend in his borrowed Renault Megane car near the entrance to Castle Caldwell forest he “apparently” saw another, Mrs Cox’s Peugeot 307, in his lane, and heading straight for him.
He flashed his lights, and in the split second open to him, felt he had nowhere to go.
His Renault Meegane car began spinning out of control, then someone was asking him about his mobile phone.
The next thing he remembered was waking in hospital.
The student, who now hopes to complete his final year of studies, gave evidence on his own behalf during which he refuted the prosecution contention that there was “a very simple explanation” for the crash – that he caused it and knew he had.
“That’s not true,” Mr Fahy told his trial.
During the four days of evidence, the jury heard that Mr Fahy was driving a Megane car – loaned to him by a local garage – from his Sligo home to his student digs in the Lisburn Road area of Belfast.
While at the exact time of the accident it was not raining, the weather was grey, overcast and the road was wet following a massive hail shower.
Mr Fahy testified he was “in no hurry”, and Donegal artist Heather Cassidy – also on her way to Belfast – told how prior to the crash the student’s driving was careful and proper.
The court also heard that Mrs Cox not only remembers nothing of the collision, she has “very little recollection of the whole day”.
She had been on her way to Ballyshannon to meet up with her sister Noreen.
The next thing she remembered was waking up in hospital and her sister asking if she remembered anything about a road crash.
Following the crash, Mrs Cox was transferred to Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry in a medically induced coma, while staff in the then Southwest Acute Hospital in Enniskillen battled for nearly six hours to save the life of baby Ryan.
A post-mortem carried out two days later in Belfast revealed that the toddler died from whiplash-type injuries caused by swelling and bruising of the spinal cord in his neck.
Pathologist Charlotte Randall, in a statement read to the court, reported that: “This type of spinal injury had probably been caused by an acceleration-deceleration injury to his neck as a result of the impact [of the two vehicles].”