Student cleared of causing tragic death of toddler

The scene of the fatal crash at near Castle Caldwell

The scene of the fatal crash at near Castle Caldwell

AN ARCHITECTURE student, accused of causing the death of a Fermanagh toddler in a Belleek road crash almost three years ago has been cleared in court.

University of Ulster student John Michael Fahy (25), of Groagagh Grange, Sligo was cleared of causing the death of 19 month old Ryan John Cox and injuring his mother Katriona by careless driving on the Boa Island Road, outside Belleek on January 14, 2013.


It took the jury of six men and six women just under an hour and forty-five minutes to unanimously acquit the fourth-year architectural student of the two charges. By their verdicts, the jury accepted Mr Fahy’s account of the crash and rejected the prosecution case, which was reported that through either “inexperience or over-steering” he had driven into the path of Mrs Cox’s car.

In the case heard last week in Dungannon Crown Court it was reported that 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.

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 accomodation in the Lisburn Road area of Belfast. It was reported in court that the road was wet at the time of the crash following a massive hail shower. It was reported that 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 remembered nothing of the collision, but had “very little recollection of the whole day”. She had been on her way to Ballyshannon to meet up with her sister.

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 a medically induced coma, while staff in the  Southwest Acute Hospital 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).”

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