IT’S been an emotional time for Alisha Scannell, who last week spoke publicly about her decision to meet and forgive the youth who crashed into their car last June, resulting in the death of her daughter, Zoe.
As we speak, Alisha is in the middle of organising the ‘Remembering Zoe’ event, which took place in Abbeyfeale last weekend, in remembrance of her eight-year-old daughter.
‘To be honest I think it’s not reality and I feel like I’m floating on a cloud somewhere and looking down at someone’s else life.
‘I assumed it will hit me in a week or so, but I don’t mind telling my story. First of all, I want to promote the charities and secondly I want to keep Zoe’s memory alive for as long as possible,’ she said.
Alisha is calling on the authorities to take more seriously the issue of young drivers driving unaccompanied.
The driver of the other car, Ian Lawlor O’ Donovan, was a 17-year-old learner at the time of the accident. At his sentencing at Cork Circuit Court, Judge Sean Ó Donnabhain said ‘this is why an inexperienced driver is required to have someone with a sounder head with them when driving’.
‘I do think that people need to be more vigilant about 17 and 18-year-olds driving cars. I just think it needs to be a bit more socially unacceptable to leave a 17-year-old unaccompanied driving a car. There is no enforcement for this side of things. I’m 30 years of age, and I’ve have been driving for 10 years, and I don’t know if I would be able to react if I lost control, but at least I’d have some experience to fall back on. But, at 17 years of age, you don’t have any.’
Alisha wants to meet the Road Safety Authority and discuss her thoughts, and she would like to see more education in schools on the subject of young people and driving.
‘They go on about things like mobile phones, but this is definitely of more importance. I’d like to make sure that Zoe’s death wasn’t in vain.’
Alisha had no problem with the fact that Lawlor O’Donovan didn’t receive a custodial sentence.
‘I didn’t see the point of jailing Ian, as jail in my eyes is for someone who has committed a serious crime, not for someone who has made a mistake. I was just happy he was put off the road for a few years.’
His guilty plea, coupled with the remorse shown, was a comfort to Alisha. She said his mature attitude to the case was a credit to him and his parents.
‘He had such remorse and that meant so much to me. I told him I do forgive him, and I told him that Zoe would forgive him too. It was just a tragic accident and we were two cars in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fair enough, he came across the road, but it can happen to anyone. Two families got ruined that day. It wasn’t just mine.’
‘I remember at the start when hearing about him, I had in my head that he would appear yobbo-ish, with tattoos and a shaved head, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this was in my head and I had him also speeding like a boy racer.
‘But to know he wasn’t like that meant so much and to know he was so remorseful and that he was a normal young lad, who happened to make a small mistake that had big consequences.’
‘We spoke and I just told him about Zoe’s life and how she would want him to live his life to the full now, as I had heard that he had been finding things extremely tough.’
Alisha also wanted to thank the people of Rosscarbery for their kindness following the death of Zoe. She is touched to hear that flowers are still being left at the scene of the crash.
‘From the man who came upon the crash scene and held Zoe in his arms when she was dying, to the local priest who prayed for us after the accident, everyone in that community reached out to us and touched our lives,’ she recalled.
Alisha plans to return to Rosscarbery some time this July – her first visit back since the death of Zoe. She wants to revisit Owenahincha Beach where they had spent the day before the accident.
‘I do want to go back there, and remember the good times we had with Zoe that day. We had so much fun with her in the water on one of those inflatable tyres, and she kept falling off. She thought it was hilarious, despite the fact it was cold with no heat there.’
‘That was the kind of girl Zoe was. No matter what, she was going to have fun.’