A Carlow woman has been found not guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of her four friends.

A jury took less than 25 minutes in deliberation before reaching the decision at Naas Circuit Court following a trial which lasted a day and a half.

They returned unanimous not guilty verdicts for 23-year-old Dayna Kearney of Crossneen, Carlow, who was charged with dangerous driving causing death and driving a defective vehicle at Burton, Kildare on the night of 6 January 2015.

Ms Kearney had been driving a Volkswagen Polo that veered out of control into wrong lane on the N78, colliding with an oncoming van. The car had spun and hit the front of the van on the passenger side.

Niamh Doyle, Gemma Nolan and Aisling Middleton, who were all aged 19, along with 20-year-old Chermaine Carroll all died in the crash. 

The trial had been told that the NCT certificate on Ms Kearney's car had expired eight months before the crash and some of the tyres on the vehicle had not been correctly inflated. 

Ms Kearney wiped tears from her eyes as the verdicts were read out, while members of the victims' families were also visibly upset.

After the verdict, Judge Eoin Garavan said Ms Kearney had come to court as not guilty and nothing had changed as she now left.

He described the case as the "most appalling and sad tragedy" and paid tribute to the victims, their family and friends.

"For four young people in the prime of their lives to lose their lives on a good road on a good evening, it puts tragedy upon tragedy. Their lives can never be replaced."

Judge Garavan said Ms Kearney would live with the consequences of the accident for the rest of her life.

He said it appeared the collision had occurred because of un-inflated or under-inflated tyres

"To think something quite small, easily overlooked could cause such devastation, it's such a salutatory lesson for us all."

Judge Garavan thanked the jury for their service and said he appreciated it was an emotionally difficult trial. He excused them from jury service for five years.


Defence solicitor Frank Taaffe spoke on behalf of Ms Kearney at Naas Courthouse after the verdicts.

Mr Taaffe said his client's reaction was of relief but was "tinged with great sadness for having lost four of her dear friends and great sadness for the loss incurred by their families".

He said Ms Kearney had undergone counselling for the last three-and-a-half years because of the tragic accident.

"It has been a tremendous ordeal," he said. "She is relieved but still shattered by events three-and-a half-years ago."

Mr Taaffe said his client expressed her heartfelt sorrow to the families.

"They were all her friends who died in that tragic accident. She feels their loss and she understands the great loss that has been suffered by those families."

The victims' families were visibly upset as they left the courthouse.