Northern Ireland news

Teenage driver who caused the death of a 12-year-old weeps in court

Nicole Fegan

A teenage driver who caused the death of a 12-year-old girl when the beach buggy she was driving crashed into a pick up truck wept in court as she was handed an 18 month probation order.

The 16 year old, who cannot be identified in any way because of her age, has also been banned from driving for four years.

Nicole Fegan's mother Margo wept quietly in the public gallery as District Judge Des Perry imposed the driving ban saying "the impact it would have on the parents of Nicole to see the defendant driving around the roads in a relatively short period of time ... would be horrendous," he said.

Judge Perry said while she had not been speeding in the dune buggy, it was a “bad mistake” to drive the vehicle, which wasn’t road worthy and did not have working seat belts, along the “narrow and twisty” Flagstaff Road in Newry “where you couldn’t see what was ahead of you.”

The schoolgirl had initially been charged with causing Nicole’s death by dangerous driving but after a day of evidence, Judge Perry convicted her of the lesser offence of causing the death of her 12-year-old passenger by careless driving on November 18, 2017.

She was also convicted of being an unlicensed driver causing death and an uninsured driver causing death.

The judge heard how the teenager, who was just 14 at the time, was driving the American made beach buggy, which had a top speed of 60 mph, when it collided with a pick up truck.

The other driver told the court he braked as hard as he could and pulled over to the verge on the country road but the collision couldn’t be avoided.

Nicole was able to get out of the buggy herself but she collapsed at the side of the road and the air ambulance was called to rush her to hospital.

Tragically, as a result of internal bleeding caused by a laceration to her liver, Nicole died on her way to hospital on what was her parents’ wedding anniversary.

The judge heard evidence that the manual for the beach buggy warned that it was not suitable for the roads, that seat belts and helmets should be worn by the driver and passenger, but neither Nicole nor the driver were wearing helmets while an engineer's report showed the passenger seat belt where Nicole was sitting was broken.

Imposing the driving ban, Judge Perry warned the teenager that "undoubtedly, your friends will acquire cars - do not under any circumstances be tempted to get behind the wheel of a car."

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