Leaving Cert student died in car ‘inferno’ less than one hour after kissing mother goodnight: ‘All we want is the truth’

An 18 year old Leaving Cert student died in a car crash in Cratloe in south east Clare less than one hour after kissing his mother on the cheek good night and telling her that he loved her.

t the Co Clare inquest into the death of John Daly, John’s mother, Linda Daly said that there remains unanswered questions around the lead up to John’s death.

John died 150 metres from his home when his father, Sean’s car that he was driving burst into flames after it crashed at a level crossing at around 2.55am on the morning of St Patrick’s day 2020.

John had attended a party at a friend’s house earlier that evening and got a lift home with a friend’s father, Pat Horgan.

In her deposition, Linda Daly said: “Around 2am John came into my room to let me know that he was home and gave me a kiss goodnight and told me he loved me.”

However, within an hour, Mrs Daly was woken by her husband, Sean screaming for John after he discovered that John was not in his bed and there was a car in flames out on the road.

Mrs Daly told the inquest: “All we want is the truth – that those 45 minutes from when John kissing me to when my son was inside in an inferno – that is all we want.”

The Dalys want to know why John left his bedroom to go back out in his father’s car and if he did receive a call to go back out and who made that phone-call.

The inquest was told that John had six or seven bottles of Heineken across the evening until after midnight at Evan Keogh’s barbecue and was over the drink-driving limit for L plate drivers when involved in the single vehicle crash.

Addressing the inquest, Sean Daly said: “We are not apportioning blame to anyone whatsoever. My son was intelligent and he knew that should not have gone back out that night. We are not blaming anyone over what happened that night. What happened that night is down to John. It is a sad thing to have to say but it is.”

He added: “We are not putting blame on anyone but it would have been nice for people to come to just talk and the fact that that didn’t happen sends out red flags.”

He said: “It is beyond me that people couldn’t come to us and tell us what happened to alleviate our suffering more than anything else and to this day it hasn’t happened – I can’t make it out.”

In his deposition, Sean Daly told of his panic when not finding John in his bed that night.

He said that he ran to the front door where he could see a car on fire at the level crossing and his own car missing.

Mr Daly said: “I knew then it was my car on fire and John was in it.”

Mrs Daly said that she was approached by a Garda at the crash scene who told her ‘we didn’t chase, we followed him’ .

After realising that John was in the burning car, Sean said: “I don’t recall much after that, I just lost the plot.”

John’s remains were later formally confirmed with a DNA match from his mother, Linda.

John is the Dalys’ only son and is a twin of sister, Claire and Linda said John was “an amazing person”.

She said: “The more you met John the more you wanted to be in his company.”

Mrs Daly said that John – who was due to work at Supervalu in Corbally on the morning of his death – was looking to do law and accounting at UL while he also loved his hurling with local club, Cratloe.

She said: “John was very, very generous and helpful and kind and was always looking out for his sister, Claire. He shouldn’t be where he is.”

Local man, Pat Horgan gave evidence of dropping John home from the party at around 2.10am when collecting his own son, Donal from the party and said the two boys didn’t appear drunk and their form was very good.

Mr Horgan said that John was asking about Covid and whether it would result in the postponement of the Leaving Cert Summer exams.

A teen at the party, Killian Arthur told the inquest that John later dropped him home from the party and he recalled texting his girlfriend at 2.52am after he got home. Mr Arthur said that he didn’t contact John to bring him home.

The preface by the pathologist to the post mortem report stated that on the night, John Daly arrived home from the party at 2am and went straight to bed after saying goodnight to his parents.

The preface stated that John “apparently received a call after going to bed to return to the party. It is not certain if he dropped another person home or if he was driving for another purpose on his own”.

The preface stated that a Garda car approached and he drove away at speed and the crash was not witnessed.

County Coroner, Isobel O’Dea told the Dalys “I can’t imagine the sadness – it is tragic beyond description”.

Three witnesses from the night did not appear at the inquest and Ms O’Dea adjourned the inquest at the request of the Dalys to allow the three to be present at an adjourned date for their depositions to be read into the record.

Ms O’Dea adjourned the inquest to October for mention when a date is expected to be arranged for the inquest to resume.