Teenager receives four years detention over fatal collision in Cork

A teenager who drove a stolen car over 170 kilometres per hour the wrong way down the motorway near Mitchelstown, Co Cork causing the death of a 16-year-old front seat passenger and life-changing injuries to a female motorist with whom he collided, has received four years of detention.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Johnny Foley of Spur Hill in Togher in Cork lost his life in the crash on 1 July, 2023.

Two other teenage boys were seriously injured in the crash, while a teenage girl was less seriously injured in the incident.

Mental health occupational therapist Roisin Stakelum saw her life completely changed in an instant after the car being driven by the 17-year-old driver collided with her car.

She opted to give victim impact evidence in the case.

She told Judge Helen Boyle that she was travelling to Dublin Airport to fly to Australia to start a new life when the car occurred.

“I began my journey just after midnight on the morning of 1 July, 2023. I never made it to the airport. I barely made it out of Fermoy. That crash brought a violent end to my plans, all my hard work and dreams for a new life.

“What happened that night on the motorway altered the course of my life and changed me forever. I’m haunted by the memory of the impact. Haunted by the memory of the headlights and then what seemed like an explosion. I often think of how unlucky I was to be on that particular stretch of road at that exact moment.”

Ms Stakelum had a job arranged in Australia and was set to meet up with her sister and friends there. However, instead she found herself facing into an eight-hour emergency surgery where surgeons put several titanium plates in to her face to fix the fractures.

She said she now lives with horrific injuries.

“Even now I am unable to fully open my mouth… I have nerve damage all over the bottom half of my face and have no sensation or altered sensation in a lot of it.

“I don’t think I fully understood the meaning of pain until this experience.

“The first time seeing my face in a mirror after the surgery, my face was so damaged and swollen and bruised I didn’t recognise my own reflection. I thought I was somebody else. That was terrifying. I couldn’t physically smile for months.

“The burden of my injuries has placed strain on those closest to me, especially my parents… the emotional toll on my loved ones cannot be overstated and I am deeply saddened by the pain this has caused them.

“My future was once so certain. I knew exactly what I was going to be doing. I had it mapped out. Now I feel disconnected like I’ve been plugged out of my life. I can’t see a way back. I don’t think I’m ever going to feel like myself again… I won’t move to Australia now. That future doesn’t exist for me anymore.”

Ms Stakelum described the death of Johnny Foley as an “immense tragedy”.

“The loss of a young life is an immense tragedy, and I cannot help but feel a profound sense of sorrow for the untimely passing of this young person.

Meanwhile, the defendant, who cannot be named because of his young age, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Foley.

The youth also pleaded guilty to three charges of dangerous driving causing serious harm to two teenage passengers in his car as well to the other motorist, Roisin Stakelum, in the two-car collision and to a count of endangerment, where other motorists had to take evasive action.

Dt Garda John Murphy of Fermoy Garda Station outlined the case to Judge Boyle.

He said the five juveniles involved arrived in Glanworth village shortly before midnight on 30 June, 2023, in a Toyota they had stolen in Cork two days earlier. He told the court that the five teenagers tried to steal another car.

However, they were disturbed by the owner of the second vehicle who contacted gardaí.

Gardaí responded but the young driver did a U-turn in Glanworth village and took off at speed with the gardaí in pursuit. The juvenile managed to lose the gardaí.

About thirty minutes later gardaí spotted the stolen vehicle near Mitchelstown. However, the juvenile avoided arrest by going around two roundabouts the wrong way at high speed.

Det Garda Murphy told how at the second of these roundabouts, the juvenile drove on to the M8 motorway and headed south on the northbound lane for over six kilometres at speeds in excess of 170 kph forcing several other motorists to take evasive action.

Shrortly before 1am the juvenile driving the stolen Toyota southwards crashed head-on into a Kia Riva heading north being driven Ms Stakelum.

In sentencing, Judge Boyle said that the youth had caused “life changing” injuries to some and the death of another in the incident.

She said that he had forced other motorists to take “evasive action” before colliding “head on” into another vehicle.

She acknowledged that the youth had had little to no parental assistance growing up. Judge Boyle said that he had had a “highly dysfunctional childhood” where he experienced severe neglect.

She extended her condolences to the family of Johnny Foley and said that the loss of life of such a young man was tragic.

Judge Boyle said that there was a certain “inevitability” about the crash given the manner in which the car was being driven.

She ruled that the boy be detained for four years.