A DRUNK driver is beginning a seven-year sentence after crashing a BMW and leaving a young woman dead, her friend paralysed and three other young people injured.
Sean Casey (27) was jailed for dangerous driving causing death as well as causing serious bodily harm to four other passengers on April 8 last year.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard Casey was also four times over the drink-driving limit and his silver BMW was travelling at 80kmh in a 50kmh zone in Skibbereen in west Cork.
The car ploughed into a steel post at speed. The young man fled the accident scene and, while he rang the emergency services to raise the alarm, was later found sheltering in a ditch.
Casey fought back tears as he apologised for what happened.
"I am very sorry for what happened. I just wish I could take back what happened. It absolutely kills me every day to think what happened. I am so very sorry," he said.
Judge Sean O'Donnabhain heard that Meghan 'Meg' Johnston (22) died in the collision while her friend, Kate Petford (23), was left paralysed from the neck down after her spine was shattered.
Ms Petford said that, despite being left paralysed, her greatest pain remains the loss of her best friend, Meg.
Because she is still in treatment at the National Rehab Clinic in Dublin, Ms Petford was unable to attend the court in person.
"I was 22 and my future was bright with promise. I was a final year degree student at UCC where I was studying (BA) French and commerce," her victim impact statement said. "I lived and enjoyed an active and independent life full of spontaneity. I enjoyed dating and I hoped in the future to marry and have a family.
"(But) following the tragic road traffic accident I was partially awakened in CUH to a nightmare of pain and loss . . . I am and will remain a quadriplegic."
Ms Petford almost died because of the spinal damage and the fact her main artery, the aorta, was torn. She also suffered a collapsed lung and fractured ribs.
"My greatest loss has been the death of my best friend, Meg, who tragically lost her life in the same accident – the loss of my friend at such an early stage is a tragedy and a sadness with which I must live."
Ms Petford said the accident was "entirely avoidable and arose by reason of dangerous and irresponsible driving by the defendant".
Meanwhile, Ms Johnston's parents, Vanda and Stephen, are now saving up for their daughter's headstone. Vanda suffered a stroke in December 2012 and Meg had cut short a trip to Australia to return to west Cork to care for her. "Meg was my life, my future, my daughter and my friend," she said.
"Meg gave up college and was 100pc there for me as a carer and emotionally she was the one person I kept going for . . . her daily visits to the hospital, taking me out on trips, running our home. She did all this with a smile, a giggle and love – I cannot express how brilliant she was with me. I knew we have a special bond and I didn't want her to give up her lifestyle for me, but she did.
"I loved her for making me feel safe, loved and never treating me any differently than she did before I had my stroke."
Mrs Johnston said that when she heard her daughter had died in the collision her "whole world fell apart".
Casey, of Cooragannive, Skibbereen, Co Cork was jailed after pleading guilty to a number of charges arising from the April 8 tragedy. He had a blood/alcohol concentration of 204mgs per 100ml, four times over the legal limit. Judge O'Donnabhain described it as the worst case of its kind he had ever dealt with.