Sunday 30 April 2017

Jail for drunk hit-and-run driver who left farmer to die

Brian McDonald

A DRUNK driver was jailed for two years yesterday after she knocked down a bachelor farmer and left him to die at the side of the road.

Mother-of-six Marie Melia (39) left Patrick Lynch (65) dying after he suffered extensive injuries when she struck him with her car as he walked home to Caherlea, Corandulla, Co Galway, from the pub on August 3, 2008. He lay undiscovered for up to six hours.

When he was found by passersby the following morning an ambulance was immediately called, but he died at the scene from his injuries.

Earlier this year Melia had pleaded guilty at Galway Circuit Court to a charge of dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Lynch at Drumgriffin, Corandulla. The case was adjourned to yesterday for sentencing.

The court heard that witnesses, who had seen Melia leave a Corandulla pub in the early hours of the morning, described her condition as extremely intoxicated. She had reversed her jeep into a wall as she left the pub.

Passenger

Melia, of Kilcahill, Claregalway, had been drinking in two pubs since 6pm the previous evening and had a male passenger in the car with her.

The male passenger has since died, Detective Inspector Gerard Roche told Judge Raymond Groarke.

Mr Lynch had been walking home from the pub at the time. He was well known in the area and usually wore a fluorescent jacket, but was not wearing the jacket on this occasion.

From garda enquiries, it appeared that Mr Lynch was standing about 40cm in from the edge of the road when he was struck by Melia's jeep.

He was thrown 20 metres into the air after being struck. His shoes were later found in a field.

Det Insp Roche said the time of the collision was put at 2-3am, but Mr Lynch was not found until about six hours later. He was still alive, but passed away shortly after the ambulance had arrived at the scene. When gardai called to her home, Melia became upset and later admitted what had happened. Her jeep was damaged in front and one of the tyres had blown out.

Paul Greene told the court that Melia's husband had left the family home in 2008 and she was solely caring for her six children. She had begun drinking excessively at about this time.

Reckless

Mr Greene described his client's actions as "reckless, stupid and criminal".

He told the judge that, prior to sentencing, his client had accepted legal papers in respect of civil proceedings.

Judge Groarke described it as "a terribly sad case". Mr Lynch was the first unfortunate victim, while Melia's children were also victims.

"Having struck Mr Lynch, she tried to do a runner, knowing she had struck somebody, and tried to look out for herself, rather than help the victim", he said.

While sending her to prison would constitute a very serious penalty for her and her children, the court also had to mark the seriousness of the offence.

He sentenced Melia to two years in prison and disqualified her from holding a driving licence for 12 years.

Irish Independent

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