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Toddler's parents weep as jury finds driver not guilty over death crash

By Michael Donnelly and Cate McCurry

Published 10/12/2015

John Fahy
John Fahy
Ryan and Katriona Cox

The parents of a 19-month-old Fermanagh toddler wept as a man was cleared of causing the death of their baby son in a car crash almost three years ago.

Peter and Katriona Cox shook their heads as a Dungannon Crown Court jury acquitted 25-year-old John Michael Fahy of causing the death of baby Ryan by careless driving on the Boa Island Road outside Belleek on January 14, 2013.

It had taken the jury just under an hour and 45 minutes to unanimously acquit the Ulster University student, from Groagagh Grange in Sligo, of the two charges of causing Ryan's death and causing grievous bodily injury to his mother by careless driving.

As the jury acquitted him, Mrs Cox bowed her head and wept as Mr Cox comforted his wife by placing his arm around her.

Mr Cox then shook his head as the jury was thanked and a shocked Mrs Cox buried her head in her hands. She was comforted by a police liaison officer.

Afterwards neither Mr Cox, Mrs Cox nor Mr Fahy commented on the verdicts.

The student had told the court that after rounding a bend in his borrowed Renault Megane near the entrance to Castle Caldwell forest he "apparently" saw 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 car began spinning out of control. Then someone (at the scene) was asking him about his mobile phone, and the next thing he remembered was waking in hospital.

Mr Fahy, who hopes to complete his final year of studies, gave evidence during which he refuted the prosecution contention that there was a "very simple explanation" for the tragic accident, that he caused it and knew he had.

The prosecution also claimed, as a result, Mr Fahy had strayed into the path of Mrs Cox's Peugeot 307, smashing into the front of it in a near head-on collision, and that he knew this was the cause of the horrific accident.

"That's not true," Mr Fahy told his trial.

The jury heard that Mr Fahy was driving a car, loaned to him by a local garage, from his Sligo home to his student digs in the Lisburn Road area of Belfast. While at the time of the accident it was not raining, the weather was grey, overcast and the road was wet following a massive hail shower.

Mr Fahy testified he was "in no hurry", and indeed Donegal artist Heather Cassidy, who was also on her way to Belfast, told how just prior to the accident the student's driving was careful and proper.

The court also heard that Mrs Cox not only remembered nothing of the accident that claimed the life of her young son, she 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 Noreen asking did she remember anything about a road accident.

Following the accident Mrs Cox had been transferred to Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry in a medically induced coma while staff in the then South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen battled for nearly six hours to save Ryan.

A post-mortem carried out two days later in Belfast revealed the toddler died from whiplash-type injuries caused by swelling and bruising of the spinal cord in his neck.

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