Danish motorist Lasse Burholt, who was involved in the tragic car accident that resulted in the deaths of three children in July, has spoken out for the first time.
The crash between Burholt and Maria O'Shea, a Danish doctor who lives in Australia, took place near the northern Jutland town of Sindal and resulted in the deaths of three of O'Shea's four children: Soren (11), Saoirse (9) and Conor (3). Her youngest child, Torben, survived.
Since the release of the crash report, Burholt has admitted to driving over the 80 kmh speed limit at the time of the collision, and told the Sunday Independent that his speed was "never a secret".
"I testified to the police at the hospital that I was speeding," Burholt told the Irish Independent. "Witnesses at the crash site also told the police that I had told them about speeding."
"The [Danish] newspapers went crazy when the crash report was released," Burholt continued. "For four days they were feeding on the story – I was on the cover of a national newspaper twice in a very negative context. I was accused of withholding the speeding issue from the police. It lead to a lot of threats and harassment."
Deemed the worst crash in Denmark's living memory, in an exclusive interview with Irish Independent, Brian and Maria O'Shea opened up about their loss and the series of events that followed that tragic day.
"[After the accident] the police reports came out saying that Maria had overlooked the oncoming driver who was travelling at 80 kmh – within the speed limit," Brian O'Shea, who is from Dublin, told Irish Independent. "It was said time and again without any investigation. They advised the Australian and Irish press that this was the case. Their spokesman was quoted in the Irish Times saying that the driver, Lasse Burholt, 39, was not at fault in any way."
The O'Sheas said it has been excruciating living with the insinuation that the accident was Maria's fault.
"There were suggestions in the Danish media that she was an Australian housewife who didn't know which side to drive on and was distracted by the kids," Brian O'Shea continued. "Maria grew up in that area and knows the roads well. We drive hundreds of kilometres in Australia in relatively dangerous conditions. We have a higher sense of awareness and road safety over there. She is an excellent driver."
No charges yet
It took one month from the time of the accident for the crash report to be finalised and, to date, both parties are still unclear on the status of police charges.
“The case has just been delivered to the prosecutor's department and there is no decision yet about what kind of action will be taken in this case,” North Jutland Police's deputy chief prosecutor, Torben Kauffmann Sørensen, told The Copenhagen Post. “We will probably have a decision next week.”
Even without formal charges in the case, Burholt told the Irish Independent that he does not believe O'Shea is to blame for the heartbreaking July occurrence.
"I would like to emphasise the fact that I do not blame Maria for the accident in any way whatsoever," he said. "It was an accident. I have told this to numerous people: It was a tragic accident. We were both at the wrong place at the wrong time. She was there because the main road through Lendum was closed. I was there because of an impulse decision to visit my dad on my way home from my work. I changed my normal routines and had my cruise control off. It is always on at 85-90 kmh when I drive to my work and back. There are numerous speed controls on the two routes I drive back and forth. Tragic accident. Period."
In their interview with the Independent, the O'Sheas said that Burholt can't imagine the anguish they feel.
"I challenge Lasse Burholt to place himself, for one second, in Maria's shoes," Brian O'Shea said. "Imagine waking up with the feeling that you are considered solely responsible for your children's deaths. Imagine Maria looking into my eyes and wondering if I think she is to blame."