*The late Damien Carmody. 

A WEST CLARE woman has told of her devastation at losing her recently married husband in a farm-yard accident more than two and a half years ago.

On January 21st, 2021, full-time farmer, Damien Carmody (36) died when a wall collapsed in on him while he was helping out friend and contractor, Christopher Keane in excavating out a new slatted tank for the storage of slurry on the farm of John Roche at Doonaha, Kilkee.

At Ennis Circuit Court, Mr Carmody’s wife, Elaine told the court that “my whole life fell apart” when Damien’s “young life was tragically taken”.

The couple were one year married and Elaine said only a few hours before Damien died seven simple words ‘I love you. See you this evening,’ spoken between the couple sadly “now mean so much to me”.

The victim impact statement was read out by State Solicitor for Clare, Aisling Casey at the sentencing hearing of two farmers who pleaded guilty to Health and Safety offences on the day.

In court, one of the accused Christopher Keane told the court that Mr Carmody was “a very good friend” while the court heard that John Roche was one of those to carry Mr Carmody’s coffin at his funeral.

Judge Francis Comerford imposed a fine of €30,000 on dairy farmer and contractor, Christopher Keane (48) of Bella, Kilkee after he pleaded guilty to two health and safety breaches connected to the death of Mr Carmody.

Judge Comerford imposed a fine of €3,000 on John Roche (47) of Doonaha, Kilkee for a single health and safety offence.

Judge Comerford also ordered that the Health And Safety Authority’s (HSA’s) expenses of €1,968 and DPP expense of €1,500 be paid.

Judge Comerford said that there wasn’t a question of him imposing prison terms as the culpability in the case was “low”.

Judge Comerford said that there was no indication of any steps taken in order to increase profit or if there was warning that something would happen and they continued to work away.

Christopher Keane told the court Mr Carmody “was a very good friend and we worked together for a number of years”.

Asked what impact Mr Carmody’s death has had on him, Mr Keane in the witness box said: “It has really destroyed my life”.

Counsel for Mr Roche, Patrick Whyms BL (inst by solicitor Daragh Hassett) described what happened as an “awful tragedy” and said that Mr Roche was one of those to carry Mr Carmody’s coffin at his funeral.

Under questioning from Judge Comerford on the events of the day, Mr Keane said, “We done the best we could.”

He later told Judge Comerford, “To me the wall looked safe”.

The dimensions of the planned tank were five metres wide, 44 metres long and 2.4 metres deep and excavation dimensions were greater and the works were expanding on an existing tank.

In her victim impact statement, Mr Carmody’s wife Elaine said, “Having to sit down and write this Victim Impact Statement is very difficult because words can never describe the immeasurable amount of grief and loss I feel on a daily basis since Damien’s death. When I lost Damien I lost so much, along with losing my amazing husband I lost all my dreams for the future, dreams of a family, growing old together and all the things we planned to do and see along the way.

“One year married, our lives as a married couple were only just beginning and we were so excited to build our future together. I miss Damien so much. I miss his company, his love and affection, his smile, his laugh, his friendship, his caring nature, his helpfulness to others, the way he could always make me feel so safe and loved.

“Damien was a truly wonderful person and the impact and the trauma his tragic death has had on me both emotionally and psychologically has been immense. I am now faced with the challenge of trying to rebuild my life, a life without Damien and even the thought of this life breaks my heart and makes me so sad.

“On January 22nd 2021, I was given a lifelong sentence, this was having to live a life without my beloved husband, Damien and I will forever wonder why this beautiful young man at the prime of his life to be so senselessly taken. My heart will forever break thinking of all the tomorrows Damien will never see it is soul destroying imagining the future he was denied.

Counsel for the State, Lorcan Connolly BL described the victim impact statement as “very poignant” and told the court that Elaine wasn’t in court but that members of Mr Carmody’s family were present in court.

In her evidence, inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), Ms Olive Higgins said that the main problem was that the workers didn’t have the space to ‘batter’ back the excavation for the size of the slurry tank.

Ms Higgins said, “One of Mr Keane’s employees who did the excavation work said that they have always batted back excavations but due to tight space in this instance, they didn’t have the space to do what they would normally would do”.

Ms Higgins said that an expert report commissioned by the HSA on what went wrong found that that the wall collapsed due to inadequate strength between the wall and its foundations.

Ms Higgins stated that the report also found that due to heavy rainfall, some ground may have washed out.

Ms Higgins said that the expert report concluded that the works were unsafe and that the excavation should not have been started until further measures were in place.

Asked were there any aggravating factors in the case by Mr Connolly, Ms Higgins said, “Not really.”

She said, “In my opinion, the tank was too big for the space they had, the timing was bad. No, there are no aggravating factors”.

Ms Higgins said that neither defendant has previous convictions.

Ms Higgins said that Mr Carmody used to help out Mr Keane at busy times and in return Mr Keane would cut Mr Carmody’s silage for free.

The day of the tragedy was the first day that Mr Carmody helped on the planned slurry tank works.

In the case, Mr Keane trading as Christopher Keane Plant-Hire pleaded guilty to two charges to failing to ensure that in the course of work, individuals were not exposed to risk to their safety, health and welfare at Doonaha, Kilkee on January 22nd 2021.

Mr Keane pleaded guilty to that in particular, an excavation at the site was unsafe and that no adequate measures were taken by him to prevent the collapse of the sides of the excavation on persons working in the excavation and as a consequence, Damien Carmody suffered fatal injuries.

Mr Keane pleaded guilty to a separate health and safety breach where he failed to ensure that adequate precautions were taken at the excavation site to guard against dangers to persons at work from a fall or a dislodgement of earth and as a consequence, Mr Carmody suffered fatal injuries.

Mr Roche pleaded guilty to failing to appoint a competent project design supervisor for the design process for construction work carried out at an excavation at Doonaha, Kilkee on January 22nd 2021 as required by Health and Safety construction regulations.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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